A little prevention can keep kids playing for life
By D. Scott Marr, MD, FACSM
An increasing number of children are focusing on one sport and training year round for it. While they and their parents may feel that this concentration is necessary to be competitive, it leaves little time for important rest and recovery. I often remark to young athletes that professional athletes all schedule a “down-time,” so why not young athletes?
A recent Youth Sports Injuries public service campaign used the tagline: “What will they have longer, their trophies or their injuries?” While somewhat sensational, the message should be given careful consideration. With 35 million children (6 to 21 years old) in the United States participating in sports, the risk for overuse injuries is high.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries in children younger than 15 were treated in 2003. Thirty to fifty percent of these injuries were caused by overuse, with the frequency of injury equal among boys and girls.
Sports medicine specialists are now seeing many repetitive strain injuries in young athletes such as tennis elbow and Achilles’ tendonitis that we used to see only in adults. The following is a look at overuse injuries commonly seen in children and their symptoms.
Common Overuse Injuries
Injury Possible symptoms
Tibial stress fracture Focal shin pain, worse with activity
Swimmer’s shoulder Shoulder pain worse with overhead motion, may feel loose
Little League elbow Pain on medial elbow, usually with throwing motion
Runner’s knee Pain around kneecap
Shin splints Diffuse shin pain, less focal than stress fracture
Sever’s disease Heel pain, worse with activity
Osgood-Schlatter disease Pain, swelling below kneecap at patellar tendon insertion
Apophyseal avulsion fracture Abrupt onset of pain at tendon insertion on bone
Gymnast’s wrist Diffuse wrist pain from repetitive wrist extension loading
(Continued… Preventing Overuse Injuries)
D. Scott Marr, MD, FACSM, graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine. He holds a Certificate of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine. Dr. Marr has a special interest in elite endurance athletics including performance physiology and injury prevention.