Overuse injuries are common among children and young athletes. Overuse injuries result from repetitive movements placing repetitive stress upon the body parts involved, such as: bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Overuse injuries can be caused by:
- poor recovery
- high stress loads
- poor technique
- poor muscular strength or imbalance
- ill-fitted protective equipment
Common overuse injuries in children and young athletes are:
- shin splints
- stress fractures
- tendonitis (golfers or tennis elbow)
Overuse injuries often come with children and young athletes specialising in a sport at a young age, resulting in repetitive movements and muscular imbalance. Children and young athletes are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries as their bodies are growing and developing. This growing and developing means children and young athletes require longer recovery periods and have greater nutritional requirements.
Overuse injuries often result from small injuries, such as muscle tears, that are not noticed, or not given enough time to fully recover. This leaves the injured area weak and vulnerable to further injury. As further stress is placed on this area, re-injury occurs. This cycle repeats resulting in an overuse injury, which takes longer to recover from and causes more lasting damage than acute injuries.
Implications for the ways young people engage in sport
Overuse injuries such as stress fractures affect the ways young people should engage in sport. To avoid overuse injuries young athletes are encouraged to engage in a wide variety of sports and not to specialise in a sport at a young age. This improves the variety of movements, helps ensure development and growth is holistic and balanced, rather than imbalanced. Young people should also ensure they have appropriate rest periods after training and performance to avoid these injuries. Young people should ensure they fully recover from injuries, both major and minor, before they continue in any sport or training to help avoid overuse injuries. Furthermore, coaches and trainers, should be fully qualified to work with children and young athletes.
How overuse injuries such as stress fractures are managed
The management of these injuries should be supervised by a qualified health professional, such as: a physiotherapist, an osteopath, or an exercise physiologist. Often management is done in conjunction with a GP and information is provided for the coach and trainer to use when administering any further training. However, the management of overuse injuries is normally for the athlete to stop the movement that has caused the injury, and to give the injured area a break.
For example, a stress fracture to the shin of a child or young athlete, is an overuse injury usually caused by excessive running, particularly on concrete. This young athlete would be required to stop running until cleared by their health professional and GP. For a tennis elbow overuse injury, management would be to stop playing tennis, and rest the elbow.