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Southcoast Health: Preventing & Treating Sports Injuries in Children

An overuse injury happens gradually from a repetitive activity — usually sports-related. Children are at higher risk for overuse injuries because their bodies are still growing. Overuse injuries in children can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and growth plates (where new cartilage develops at the end of long bones).

In recent years, overuse injuries have increased in children. Experts estimate about half of children participating in sports suffer from an overuse injury. These injuries occur in just about any sport and most commonly affect the knee, foot or elbow.

If your child has an injury or you’re worried about sports injuries, turn to the physicians and sports medicine specialists in MA and RI at Southcoast Health.

Common Overuse Injuries

Some common overuse injuries in children include:

  • Jumper’s knee
  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease
  • Sever’s Disease
  • Strains
  • Stress fractures
  • Stress reaction of growth plate
  • Thrower’s elbow

Risk Factors & Causes

Overuse injuries result from continually using a set of muscles without adequate rest for healing and recovery. This is especially important to know if you have a child who trains and competes year-round.

The following risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing an overuse injury:

  • Growth spurts
  • Inadequate rest
  • Overtraining
  • Prior injuries
  • Ill-fitting shoes and equipment
  • Sports specialization — participating in one sport throughout the year at the exclusion of other sports

Symptoms of Overuse Injuries

Children may not always communicate how they are feeling. That’s why you should be aware of the common signs of overuse injuries in children, including:

  • Changes in form or technique
  • Decrease in interest in the sport
  • Pain that is not from an acute injury or that increases with a specific activity
  • Swelling

Treatment Options for Overuse Injuries in MA & RI

Treating overuse injuries in children may involve:

  • Rest — from a few days up to three months of rest from a specific sport
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Ice — cold packs 20 minutes at a time
  • Physical therapy

Many overuse injuries in children are preventable with strategies including:

  • Varying sports — encourage children to try multiple sports throughout the year
  • Limiting the number of teams a child participates in during any sports season
  • Limiting weekly and yearly practice time
  • Monitoring workload during growth spurts
  • Scheduling adequate rest periods and observing an off-season
  • Staying conditioned during the off-season with a variety of activities

Through the specialty of many physician practices across southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Southcoast Health offers resources for preventing and treating overuse injuries in children.