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Overuse Injuries and Your Child Athlete

By Donna Stark

Whether your children are chasing soccer balls, fielding hits, swimming laps, swinging a club, or tumbling from here to there, seeing them physically active and playing their hearts out is such a great thing, isn't it? But what isn't so great is that all of their physical activity comes with an increased risk for injury. Injuries are an inevitable part of "the game," you know that. But did you also know that the risk significantly increases the younger they start or the more serious they are with their sport?

Overuse Injuries in Children

Horrific injuries occur in every sport, but as bad as they sound, they really are not all that common. Typically, the problems that plague our young athletes the most are the kinds of injuries caused when repeating the same motion over and over again. They're called overuse (or repetitive stress) injuries. They can affect your child's muscles, tendons, ligaments, and growth plates, and their symptoms can literally be a pain to deal with. Take a look.

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Numbness
  • Loss of strength

How it Happens

Overuse injuries aren't something that occur when your child trips over a competitor's foot or misses a landing and falls to the floor. Rather, they take time and are pushed into existence by the following contributing factors.

  • Poor endurance or lack of conditioning
  • Improper use of equipment
  • Poor technique or form while training, playing, and competing
  • Previous injuries that haven't healed properly before activity resumes
  • Year-round focus on one sport
  • Overly-demanding sports and training programs
  • Lack of injury prevention training

Reducing the Risk

Short of bubble wrapping your children before they head out to practice, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk from overuse injuries. Here are just a few.

  • Don't specialize in one sport too early - Concentrating on only one sport too early in your child's life can lead to repetitive stress and overuse issues. Encourage your child to use and develop their muscles in different ways.
  • Choose a program with trained coaches - It's easy to fall in love with the well-intentioned parent who wants to help, but when your child's safety comes into play, a trained coach is the better option. In addition to coaching the fundamentals of the game, the coach should also practice injury prevention.
  • Teach your child the red flags - Teaching your child the red flags of injury, exhaustion, and dehydration will help to keep them in the game a lot longer. Encourage rest and recovery, and let your child know that they have a voice if something doesn't feel right.

It's Game Time

We all love to sit on the sidelines and cheer for our child's team as loud as we can, and with just a few proactive steps, you can help keep your child in the game for a very long time!

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Hillsboro, Ore.

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