Children don’t just love to jump, run, and climb; they need to engage in activities that allow them to do that. Doing so promotes both physical and psychological wellness in children. Youth sports has made this even easier by combining physical activity with learning about discipline and teamwork. Another thing that a child may gain from engaging in youth sports is an overuse injury.
Parents usually assess the risks of sports injuries by observing how much contact there is in a given sport. For instance, a parent may worry somewhat about football due to the high likelihood of bumps and bruises, even with the use of protective gear. What is often forgotten is that joints and muscles are worked – and worked, and worked – during sports and that in itself is a common cause of injury.
Does overuse matter? Yes. Children are in a near-constant state of physical growth. If the muscles and joints and bones do not get enough time to recuperate from excessive use, it is possible that the natural growth pattern could be disrupted.
Common Overuse Sports Injuries
Some of the overuse injuries that orthopedic and sports medicine doctors see all-too-frequently include:
- Strains and sprains. A strain is an overuse injury that affects muscles or tendons. Sprains indicate that a ligament has stretched or torn. Often, rest is the best medicine for a strain or sprain.
- Stress fractures. This tiny crack in the bone is often the result of repetitive force. Activities such as distance running or sport in which a lot of jumping takes place are a common source of stress fractures. It is important to know that a stress fracture could occur anytime a weight-bearing activity is performed, especially if it is approached quickly; too much too soon.
- “Jumper’s knee.” Formally called Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disease, this injury is the result of repetitious force on the knees. It is the patellar tendon that is injured, and from which inflammation may spread to surrounding tissue. Any jumping sport, including basketball and volleyball, poses a risk for jumper’s knee.
The Bottom Line on Sports
Overuse injuries typically recover when adequate rest is given to the wounded structure. However, there is also value in carefully considering the amount of sporting activity a child performs throughout the year.
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