As sports participation increases so too does the incidence of overuse injuries. The immature skeleton is particularly at risk for injury due to the presence of growth cartilage (epiphyseal plate, joint surface and apophysis). For example, apophyseal injuries occurs when growth cartilage is unable to meet the activity demands under conditions of inadequate rest and recovery. Common apophyseal injuries include:
- Osgood-Schlatter disease (knee)
- Sever’s disease (heel)
- Medial epicondylar apophysitis aka Little Leaguer’s Elbow
It is believed that your child is most susceptible to injury during a rapid growth spurt with increasing sport demand, improper technique, training errors, muscle weakness and imbalance. Sports-related overuse injuries are usually symptoms involving pain of insidious onset, initially subtle that progress overtime. The good news is most all sports-related overuse injuries can be managed conservatively with proper and timely diagnosis.
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→ Shock absorption – or the ability to effectively and efficiently absorb impact – plays an important role in injury prevention. There are two strategies for proper shock absorption:
- active: muscle
- passive: bone/ligament/cartilage
If your child is not activating the correct muscles appropriately and/or there’s muscle imbalances between strength and flexibility than the passive structures take the heat. Training errors are believed to be one of the most common causes of overuse injuries. Overtime, with increased demands and inadequate recovery there is tissue failure resulting in injury.
→ Imbalances between mobility and strength can predispose your child to an overuse injury. For example, tight hip flexors can lead to inhibited abdominals and gluteal musculature. For all athletes, it is important to gain power, strength and maintain stability through the abdominals and buttocks muscles as this is the foundation of all movement.
→ Proper mechanics are crucial in avoiding overuse injuries. For example, dynamic knee valgus (knee collapsing inward) with single leg activities and jumping/landing techniques can lead to detrimental stress throughout the kinetic chain.
→ External factors such as equipment influences the athlete’s initial conditions, and can make or break your child’s season. For example, old shoes lacking support in a runner who has a tendency to overpronate can result in Tibialis Posterior Tendon Dysfunction, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (shin splints), and/or Plantar Fasciitis. Experts recommend a new pair of running shoes every 300 – 500 miles for elite and recreational runners, respectively.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL CARE ~
Pain is one of our body’s protective mechanisms. If your athlete is experiencing sharp, stabbing pain then they should stop play immediately. Playing through pain of this nature can make the injury worse. If your athlete is experiencing nagging, aching pain then they should rest and be assessed by a movement specialist. A physical therapist can do a thorough assessment of strength, flexibility and movement patterns that are sport-specific. We educate parent and child on these deficits and have numerous tools to treat the present injury, and prevent future injuries. For more information.
→ Moral of the story: The sooner an injury is diagnosed, the better it can be treated; and the sooner your athlete can return to playing!
HOW WE CAN HELP ~
If you have any concerns that your athlete might be injured, speak with a sports medicine specialist, physical therapist, or athletic trainer. You are always welcome to stop by The FIT Institute for a Complimentary Adolescent Injury Screen performed by a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
→ The FIT Institute is a private-practice and training facility focused on bridging the gap between physical therapy and sports performance. We increase the longevity of an athlete’s career by teaching proper movement patterns that often lead to overuse injuries. Our process begins with a thorough examination and plan of care to address muscle imbalances, strength and flexibility deficits. We focus on proper body mechanics and sports specific demands tailored to each individual athlete.