Overtraining Injuries in Children
While adult athletes can push their bodies to their limits to get bigger, faster, and stronger, it is dangerous for children to do so. Yet, at increasingly earlier ages children are specializing in a sport, doing sport-specific workouts, and training every day. Though adults can overtrain and injure themselves as well, it is more harmful for children since they have not completed their physical development and are more at risk of sustaining overuse injuries.
What Is an Overuse Injury?
The American Academy of Pediatrics defines an overuse injury as a “microtraumatic damage to a bone, muscle, or tendon that has been subjected to repetitive stress without sufficient time to heal or undergo the natural reparative process.” In other words, if you engage repeatedly in a singular strenuous activity without the appropriate amount of rest, you can cause minor damage to bones and soft tissue in your body. For example, baseball pitchers almost exclusively put stress on their throwing shoulder and elbow, leading to overuse injuries to the rotator cuff, ulnar collateral ligament, and elbow tendons.
Why Children Are at Risk for Overuse Injuries
Children in particular are most susceptible to overuse injuries. Part of learning a sport is learning the proper form for certain motions to reduce the amount of stress placed in certain areas of the body. Children don’t naturally throw a baseball correctly, shoot a soccer ball correctly, or even run correctly, so they are at a greater risk of overstressing their elbows, ankles, and knees as they perform.
Furthermore their bones, muscles, and ligaments are not as strong or sturdy as those of adults. They simply cannot handle the same physical workload with practices, games, and workouts like an adult. Plus, their bodies are still growing. Their growth plates, the soft tissue at the ends of long bones, is at the most risk of being fractured since it is the weakest part of their musculoskeletal system. Any growth plate damage from youth sports is serious, since it can effect how the bone will form permanently in adulthood.
Common Overtraining Injuries
Children specializing in one sport are far more likely to get an overtraining injury than those who play a lot of different sports throughout the year. This is because they use different muscle groups in each activity, giving their knees and ankles more of a rest when they swim and giving their shoulders a rest when they play soccer. If they do not take time off of their sport, they are likely to wear down over time and are susceptible to the following common overtraining injuries:
knee pain, inflammation, and swelling at the tibia tubercle, the growth plate in the knee connected to the patellar tendon
heel pain from stress on the growth plate in the heel, the calcaneus, during high-impact activities
stress placed on the elbow at the medial apophysis, a growth plate at the end of the humerus, causing pain and inflammation from an overhead throwing motion
St. Augustine Sports Medicine Orthopaedists
At Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, we can provide your child with pediatric sports medicine care for their injuries, whether from overuse or trauma. In fact, we are the only facility in Northeast Florida that can offer pediatric orthopaedic care for all ages. We can help you figure out why your child is in pain, provide physical and occupational therapy to help them recover, and even perform surgical operations when necessary. Schedule your appointment with us online, or call us at 904-825-0540.
Casey McClone, MD
Board Certifications in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. Dr. McClone specializes in treating musculoskeletal pain for patients of all ages with ultra-sound guided injections.