What Every Parent Should Know About Preventing Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes

Everyone knows that playing sports is physically, socially, and emotionally good for kids. But did you know that for the 30 million children and teens who play sports, overuse injuries account for nearly 50% of all injuries? And according to recent studies, overuse injuries in kids are on the rise

As a parent, you’re probably wondering what you can do to ensure your child isn’t one of the millions sidelined by injury this year. At OasisMD with offices in San Diego, Encinitas, and Temecula, California, our team of sports medicine and orthopedic specialists wants to help you do just that. 

Our pediatric orthopedic doctors understand the different needs of growing children and teens and can help in the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries. But prevention is the best medicine, so we’ve curated this guide to help you keep your young athlete free from overuse injuries. Read on to learn more. 

How can I tell if my child is at risk?

Overuse injuries happen as a result of repeating the same movements or motions over and over, like throwing a ball or swinging a racquet. For children and teens, the risk of developing one of these injuries is even higher since their bodies are still growing and developing. Kids are also less self-aware and don’t recognize the signs or symptoms of overuse until it’s too late. 

If your child specializes in one sport and practices frequently, she may be at higher risk. It’s important to learn to recognize the signs that an overuse injury may be developing and take preventive steps when possible.  

What are the signs or symptoms of overuse injury?

Acute injuries happen suddenly and are accompanied by immediate and usually severe pain. But overuse injuries tend to develop slowly, progressing over time. If your child exhibits any of the following signs or symptoms, contact the experts at OasisMD for an evaluation:

Children often don’t recognize or underestimate their symptoms, especially ones that build gradually and progress over time. Be sure to keep a record of your child’s aches and pains and bring it with you to any appointments. 

How can I help prevent overuse injuries in my young athlete?

There is no way to guarantee your young athlete will never be injured. But you can reduce their risk of developing an overuse injury by following these guidelines:

1. Be mindful of age and time spent practicing.

The temptation to let a child start specializing young is strong, particularly if your child demonstrates skill or talent. But specializing too young is a surefire way to increase her odds of developing an overuse injury. 

Keep in mind your child’s age, and don’t let them spend more time than that in practice hours each week. For example, your 6-year-old tennis star shouldn’t spend more than six hours on the court each week.

2. Be sure to enforce rest breaks.

Just like it’s important to take breaks during practice or games, it’s important to take a few days of rest each week. Rest breaks give your child’s body a chance to rest and repair, reducing the risk of overuse injury.

3. Teach your child to communicate and recognize symptoms.

Your young athlete is learning to communicate on the field, and it’s equally important for them to learn to communicate with you and their coaches when something doesn’t feel right. Teach your child to recognize and report symptoms of overuse injuries so they can be addressed quickly and to prevent them from developing into something more serious.

4. Trust your instincts.

No one knows your young athlete like you do. Closely watch how they move and listen to their complaints if they have them, and don’t be afraid to contact an expert. It’s better to visit the doctor and find out nothing is wrong than have your child keep playing and end up seriously hurt. 

5. Include a variety of physical activity.

Variety is the spice of life and a good way to keep overuse injury at bay. Even if your child begins to demonstrate an interest in a particular sport or activity, help them cross-train and develop different muscle groups by incorporating other sports or activities each week. This variety will not only make them a better athlete, but it will also increase their resistance to overuse injury. 

Want to learn more about preventing overuse injuries?

If you want to learn more about preventing overuse injuries or if your child is currently injured, contact the highly skilled team at OasisMD, or book an appointment online now.

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