How To Avoid Overuse Injuries In Young Athletes

Young athletes and their parents and coaches often dream of excelling at a sport and playing professionally. In this quest for success, athletes focus and practice hard, but in doing so they put themselves at risk for overuse injuries. If you're a parent or coach of a young athlete, continue reading about how to avoid overuse injuries in young athletes.

Encourage children to play more than one sport.

Experts estimate that almost half of all sports related injuries in middle school and high school students are due to overuse. This is because more young athletes are focusing on only one sport instead of playing many sports throughout the year. In addition to playing a sport for a school team, children are now playing for a club team or summer league, or attending workshops and clinics. This all means that instead of a young athlete developing a wide variety of athletic skills and physical strengths, he or she places excess stress on particular joints and muscles through repetitive motions.

For example, children age 10 to 18 who specialize in tennis are 1.5 times as likely to report injuries than children who play tennis and at least one other sport, more young pitchers are reporting shoulder and elbow pain due to excessive throwing, and more young soccer players are requiring surgery to fix injured ligaments in their knees. If these athletes would spend less time on one particular sport and play other sports during the year, muscles and joints would have the off-season to rest and bodies would have the chance to build overall strength, agility, and flexibility.

Take children to visit a pediatrician in case of any discomfort or pain.

Professional athletes are often known for playing through their pain and competing despite injuries, but this does not mean that children should do the same. Children's bones and muscles are still growing, and it's important that their bodies have adequate time to recover from any injury, no matter how minor. Coaches are generally not trained medical professionals, so they should not be the ones to diagnose whether an injury has occurred.

Instead, all young athletes should visit a doctor after any pain or discomfort so that he or she can assess the extent of the injury. It may simply be that the athlete has to rest for a week to allow the soft tissues to heal, or it may be that a more serious injury has occurred. To get the athlete back participating as soon as possible, a doctor may suggest physical therapy, strength and stretching exercises, a supportive brace, or surgery in the most serious of cases. Regardless of the specific type of treatment prescribed, playing through the pain would almost certainly make the injury much worse than it originally was.

Young athletes often feel that they need to focus as much as possible on their preferred sport, but it's often the case that taking a break from a sport can lead to greater success. It's up to parents and coaches to make sure that young athletes play more than one sport and that any potential injury is seen by a medical professional like Dr. Lisa M. Schoene as soon as possible.