Each year, many children and adolescents suffer sports-related injuries. While most sports injuries are acute, it is estimated that over half of all injuries are a result of overuse. An overuse injury is an injury sustained after repeated use. It occurs as a result of repetitive trauma to a bone, ligament, or tendon without allowing adequate time for healing. Overuse injuries may be difficult to recognize because the symptoms can be subtle and can occur over a period of time. Some common examples include Little League elbow, jumper’s knee, swimmer’s shoulder, and tennis elbow. Young athletes can be at increased risk of developing overuse injuries because they are skeletally immature. There are several other factors that may lead to these injuries including improper training and faulty mechanics. Some experts have suggested that sports specialization may also play a role in the development of overuse injuries.
A pre-participation physical may detect injuries or identify risk factors for developing overuse injuries. Participating in appropriate training and practicing proper mechanics can also help prevent injuries. It may be beneficial for young athletes to cross train and to play different sports throughout the year in order to avoid placing too much stress on one bone or muscle group. If a child or adolescent develops pain or discomfort with exercise, he or she should decrease the frequency or duration of exercise and rest. If symptoms persist, the athlete should consult with his or her pediatrician.