School is back in session and in addition to hitting the books, many students are back in the gym training for fall sports. Each year, more than 60 million school aged children participate in organized sports! Being a member of a sports team can bring a number of great experiences and life lessons for students, along with fun and great memories. So whether your daughter or son plays volleyball, basketball, football, tennis, baseball, runs track or is a tumbling gymnast, it is important for parents and students to be aware of overuse injuries.
What is an overuse injury? An overuse injury is damage to a bone, muscle, tendon or ligament caused by repetitive stress and without given the time to properly heal. Children and teens are at increased risk for overuse injuries for a multitude of reasons. Their growing bones are more susceptible to injury and they might not always be aware the symptoms that they are experiencing could be an overuse injury. Some common examples include tennis elbow, runner’s knee, pitcher’s elbow and shin splints.
What symptoms should student athletes and their parents be looking for? Well, there are four stages of overuse injuries and how they typically present and progress.
Stage 1: Pain in an affected area after activity
Stage 2: Pain in an affected area with activity, but not limiting performance
Stage 3: Pain during activity and limiting performance
Stage 4: Chronic persistent pain even at rest
What can student athletes and parents do to help prevent overuse injuries . . .
1. Every student athlete should have a PPE or preparticipation physical evaluation. Ideally this evaluation or sports physical should be performed by your child’s primary care physician, who has knowledge of their prior health history and can follow them for any chronic conditions as well as help manage any acute injuries.
2. All student athletes should maintain year-round fitness, during the season and the off season as well.
3. Proper warm ups and cool downs with all practices and games.
4. Limit a particular sport to 5 days per week. This also helps to prevent burnout.
5. It is recommended that athletes participate in only one sport and on only one team each season.
6. Encourage participation in a variety of sports. This gives your child an opportunity to learn new skills, make new friends and even maybe find a new passion.
If your student athlete has pain or symptoms of concern, contact their primary care physician for an evaluation.
We wish all of our student athletes a fun, safe and healthy season!
Dr. Jennifer Teegarden