Skip to main content

Overuse Injuries In Children: What You Need To Know

A Gillette patient plays hockey.

A child’s body is constantly growing, changing and developing. Throw a competitive sport into the mix and it can cause a serious overuse injury. This is especially difficult for kids who are dealing with complex conditions and/or have a disability. At Gillette Children’s, our providers, nurses and staff are here to help treat overuse injuries in children of all ages and backgrounds. 

A 2013 study by the American Journal of Sports Medicine determined that kids who play one sport for 8 or more months a year are almost three times more likely to experience an overuse injury. Because a child is already experiencing its natural growing pains, this puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body. 

Since young bones grow faster than muscles, children are dealing with an uneven growth pattern. This means that overuse injuries can lead to chronic pain, tissue damage and damage to the growth plate. A child’s muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones can all be affected. If your child is reporting pain during an activity or at rest, notices swelling or changes their form or technique, they may be dealing with an overuse injury. 

What Causes An Overuse Injury? 

Overuse injuries happen for a variety of reasons. Some kids suffer because of improper training and poor technique. Others are exercising too long and don’t give themselves enough time to rest. In certain cases, children repeat one specific exercise where the same muscles are being used, like throwing a baseball or swinging a tennis racket. No matter what the situation is, if your child is in pain, remind them that pushing through it is not the right course of action. Recovery and treatment is essential in preventing further injury and making matters worse. 

The good news is that overuse injuries can be prevented. While a sport or activity can quickly become a child’s passion, the fact of the matter is that the body needs rest. Enforcing adequate days off lets your child’s body recover and their muscles can relax. A good rule of thumb is that, over the course of a week, a child should never practice for more hours than their current age. So if a child is 9, they should not spend more than 9 hours playing a sport in one week. 

You should also make sure your child is using the correct equipment and utilizing proper techniques. Furthermore, aim for a gradual increase in activity, instead of doing everything at once. The body needs time to warm up and going too hard, too quickly can be dangerous. Whether it be basketball, baseball, track or gymnastics, every athlete can benefit from a proper warm-up, a cool-down period and time off. As always, never forget to stretch! 

A Gillette patient plays some baseball.

Seeking Proper Care Is Crucial 

While there are many facilities that treat orthopedic sports-related and soft tissue injuries, few have the pediatric services needed to meet the needs of children, such as pediatric physical therapy and anesthesia. Even fewer are equipped to meet the needs of children who have disabilities or complex conditions. 

Gillette sports medicine providers are orthopedic experts who’ve chosen to specialize in the unique needs of children and teens who have complex conditions and injuries. Here, we work together to utilize the best possible care. For example, Trent Cooper, MD, is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who helps kids who have disabilities. Marc Tompkins, MD, on the other hand, is an orthopedic surgeon who is an expert in sports medicine. By putting their two heads together and working with Gillette physical therapists, a kid receives the treatment they deserve.  

Seeking out providers who are the best in their fields can put a parent’s mind at ease and address the discomfort your child is dealing with. Count on Gillette to bring together services in a way that’s both comprehensive and convenient. If your child is dealing with an overuse injury, we’ll help you coordinate the services your child needs.

A Gillette patient participates in water sports.