How do overuse injuries happen?
There’s little better for our kids’ health and welfare than encouraging them to be physically active from a young age. Kids who participate in recreational and organised sports gain a range of benefits, from the physical to psychological; while often learning resilience, team-work and good sportsmanship along the way.
As with everything in life though, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Active children and teens face increased risk of overuse injuries, as their growing frames lack the resilience of a fully-developed adult’s.
Overuse injuries are muscle or joint injuries that come from a repeated action (for example, tennis elbow) and differ from acute injuries which occur in an instant (for example, a broken elbow).
Kids who play the same sports day in, day out are at higher risk of developing overuse injuries. The repeated actions of their sport-of-choice place stress on the same muscles or tendons over and over again. Kids are also more likely to perform the actions incorrectly as they learn to master new sporting techniques.
When caught early, overuse injuries can be addressed and simple steps can be taken to minimise the impact on your child’s muscles and ligaments. Left unchecked, overuse injuries can become serious and – in the worst situations – can cause long-lasting damage.
Research shows that 50 percent of kids sporting injuries are preventable and there are some key strategies you can take to help your kids avoid overuse injuries, which we’ve outlined below. As always though, if you’re in doubt about whether your child is at risk, it’s best to seek professional advice from a physiotherapist.
Encourage them to engage in other physical activities
When your child has discovered a sport they love, it can be difficult to get them to stop. However, performing the same movements every day will inevitably take a toll on their growing body, so it’s important to encourage them to try different activities, too. Get your budding soccer star to try tennis too, or encourage your little gymnast to swim a few days a week. The more your child can practice different movements, the less toll there will be on any one part of their body.
Teach them to warm up and down
When your child is excited to start their sport – or exhausted at the end of it – it can be difficult to get them to take the time needed to warm up or down properly. But, the warm up and warm down are incredibly important in helping their bodies cope with the stress of sport. Encourage them to warm up and down for every activity, even if it’s just a game of soccer in the park with friends, so they understand the importance of this part of their sporting regime.
Invest in the proper equipment
It can be tempting to take shortcuts in sporting equipment. After all, they’re only going to grow out of those expensive shoes in a few months anyway, right? But ensuring your child has good quality, well-fitted clothing and protective gear is one of the most important things you can do. Their growing bodies need the right support and taking short-cuts on equipment may cause serious damage. Get professional advice and if necessary pay the extra money for the right gear and you might end up saving your child a lot of discomfort down the track.
Emphasise proper technique
You child’s coach may have 15 or so other kids to keep an eye on, so he or she may not be able to watch your child to make sure they’re performing their sport correctly. It pays to learn the correct technique for their chosen sport and watch them to make sure they’re using it. If they’re consistently performing an activity incorrectly, practice with them at home to help them get it right.
Recognise injury and seek professional advice.
The symptoms of an overuse injury tend to be pain and discomfort that gets worse during the activity, swelling, and redness. Kids can be less likely to notice and report these symptoms, as a lower level of awareness of their bodies means the pain can be dismissed as general muscular fatigue or ignored completely. Keep an eye on your child and, if they complain of any of the above symptoms, seek professional advice.
If you’re concerned your child may have already developed an overuse injury or is at risk of developing one, Southport Central Physio can assist you.
There are various biomechanical and training strategies a physiotherapist can implement to reduce the risk and severity of overuse injuries in your child; including strengthening programs, soft tissue release and others.
Southport Central Physio are experienced in treating sports injuries. We have a highly-trained team of physiotherapists ready to help your growing athlete take their love of sport to the next level.