Overuse Injuries: Prevention for Youth Athletes

Overuse Injuries in Athletes

Orthopaedic surgeons have seen an increase in the occurrence of overuse injuries in children over the past several years. This shift has been associated primarily with youth athletes.  The trend to specialize in a single sport at a young age has certainly contributed to the rise in overuse injuries in this population.

Overuse injuries occur when an individual uses the same muscle groups and applies stress on specific areas of the body repeatedly. The pressure to compete can push athletes to overtrain. In addition, without an appropriate amount of rest in between, the likelihood of injury increases even more.

Some of the most common overuse injuries involve the knee and the foot. The lower body tends to take on the most impact. In addition, shoulder and elbow joints suffer from repetitive motion in certain sports. Muscles, ligaments, tendons, growth plates and bones are at higher risk in children as their bodies are still growing.

Common Overuse Injuries

  • Stress Fractures result from repetitive force commonly in weight bearing bones of the leg and foot.
  • Shin Splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, cause pain and discomfort on the front part of the lower leg.
  • Runner’s Knee is typically experienced as pain felt between the knee cap and thigh bone.
  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome is commonly found in runners, weightlifters and cyclists. This lateral pain can be frustrating for athletes as it can be slow to heal.
  • Achilles Tendonitis is an injury that causes an acute pain in the back of the ankle.
  • Plantar Fasciitis is a very common injury of the feet that is caused by inflammation of the soft tissue in the bottom of the foot.

Injury Prevention

If you have a youth athlete, one of the best ways to help avoid overuse injuries is by diversifying their sports participation. Avoiding specialization at an early age can decrease the likelihood of these types of injuries. Another way to help prevent injury is increasing rest time to allow growing bodies to recover in between games and practices. Pushing hydration and a healthy diet is another great way to help prevent injury. Consult an orthopaedic surgeon if you think your child is suffering from an overuse injury.

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