Overuse Injuries in Kids: Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Sports?

With an obesity epidemic in this country, the question of whether kids are being too active rarely comes into play. However, if your child is over-scheduled with sports leagues or is over-training in the same sport, he or she is at risk for an overuse injury. Here’s some common questions/answers to this topic:

What is an overuse injury? Overuse injuries are chronic injuries that occur with repetitive stress on the musculoskeletal system over a course of time without allowing for adequate recovery. Pediatric athletes are prone to overuse injuries causes by stresses placed on growing bones.

What are common overuse injuries in kids? The most common overuse injuries in kids are tendinitis, stress fractures, knee cap pain (patellofemoral pain), and apophysitis (inflammation where muscles attach to bone).

How much is too much? The answer to this question differs for every child. It usually becomes clear when a child is over-training. Fatigue, pain, or disinterest in his or her sport are common signs that a child is developing an overuse injury. Generally, they do not have adequate rest between sports activities.

How do I make sure my child does not acquire an overuse injury? Make sure your child has built in rest days in the weeks of scheduled sports activities (don’t forget that PE also counts as an activity). Also listen to your child if he or she complains of pain or fatigue.

What is the treatment for an overuse injury? Rest is the first line of treatment. Each overuse injury has more specific treatment, but generally the treatment includes physical therapy, ice, anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen), and possible bracing or orthotics.

Every sport has common overuse injuries. For instance, young baseball pitchers are prone to acquiring “Little League Elbow” (a type of apophysitis). It is important that you are aware of what the most common injuries seen in the sport your child participates in. Included in the links and resources section is a website with sports specific resources and injury prevention information (STOP sports injuries).

Rachel Brewer, MD

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