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Overuse injuries occur from repetitive actions that put too much stress on the bones and muscles. Although these injuries can occur in adults as well as kids, they're more problematic in a child athlete because of the effect they may have on bone growth.

All kids who play sports can develop an overuse injury, but the likelihood increases with the amount of time a child spends on the sport.

Some of the most common types of overuse injuries are:

  • Anterior knee pain: Anterior knee pain is pain in the front of the knee under the kneecap. The knee will be sore and swollen due to tendon or cartilage inflammation. The cause is usually muscle tightness in the hamstrings or quadriceps, the major muscle groups around the thigh.
  • Shin splints: Shin splints are characterized by pain and discomfort on the front of the lower parts of the legs. They are often caused by repeated running on a hard surface or overtraining at the beginning of a season.
  • Spondylolysis: Spondylolysis often results from trauma or from repetitive flexing, then overextension, twisting, or compression of the back muscles. This can cause persistent lower back pain. Spondylolysis is commonly seen in kids who participate in soccer, football, weight lifting, gymnastics, wrestling, and diving.

Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by:

  • Growth spurts or an imbalance between strength and flexibility
  • Inadequate warm-up
  • Excessive activity (for example, increased intensity, duration, or frequency of playing and/or training)
  • Playing the same sport year-round or multiple sports during the same season
  • Improper technique
  • Unsuitable equipment (for example, nonsupportive athletic shoes)

Treating Sports Injuries

For overuse injuries, the philosophy is similar. If a child begins complaining of pain, it's the body's way of saying there's a problem. Have the child examined by a doctor who can then determine whether it's necessary to see a sports medicine specialist. A doctor can usually diagnose many of these conditions by taking a medical history, examining the child, and ordering some routine tests.

It's important to get overuse injuries diagnosed and treated to prevent them from developing into larger chronic problems. The doctor may advise the child to temporarily modify or eliminate an activity to limit stress on the body.

In some cases, the child may not be able to resume the sport without risking further injury. Because overuse injuries are characterized by swelling, the doctor may prescribe rest, medications to help reduce inflammation, and physical therapy. When recovery is complete, your child's technique or training schedule may need to be adjusted to prevent the injury from flaring up again.

Washington Youth Soccer

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