Simply put, the most important way to avoid an overuse injury, such as tendonitis, stress fractures, growing pains, burnout, etc., is to REST. However, when most people hear the word “rest” they think they must completely avoid any and all activity. This is not the case.
Depending on your sports or favorite activity, we ask that you rest that particular body part or biomechanical system. We want to avoid the same repetitive motion that can lead to muscle, tendon, and bone break down or a muscle imbalance that will create a set up for a future injury. For example, if you are a baseball player, we would ask that you abstain from throwing and other overhead activity to rest your arm.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
It’s important for young athletes to play different sports and not the same sport all year long. This will limit the same motion and muscle activation pattern. The off-season is a great time to recover, work on aerobic fitness, cross train, or play other sports. In fact, skills developed from a different sport, such as footwork, coordinated patterns, speed vs. strength, communication and teamwork, can be transferred and often makes the athlete better all around. To-date the only sport that has been literature supported by early sport differentiation has been gymnastics, because the peak performance age is earlier as compared to other sports.
Take Time Off
The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine recommends that all youth athletes take 1-2 days off per week and a total of two months off per year from sports. Time away may be taken at 1-2 week-intervals. This is a consensus from our society to prevent overuse injuries in youth athletes because of the high energy demands of a maturing body.
Growing pains have often been used as a label to explain the pain young athletes have in their legs. Often these pains are a result of too much force on young, immature bone and growth plates. This can result in stress fractures and injuries that result in bone malalignment, shortening, and chronic pain. Tendons often attach to areas of immature bone, and repetitive stress and poor training can often pull the growth plate off the bone leading to chronic pain and deformities. These issues are actually way more common than people think.
Keep it Safe. Keep it Fun.
In the September 4, 2017 issue of Time magazine, it was estimated that youth sports are a $15.3 billion market. It’s very obvious that our society spends a lot of time, money, and energy on sports and with it comes pressure and intensity. It is important to keep kids safe and sports fun. The recommended rest will also help prevent burnout that is becoming more evident in premier high school aged athletes who no longer want to pursue a college scholarship or professional path. They often have lost the “love for the game” from the social pressures. Everyone usually knows a story of a child who would have been great if they had just stuck with it, but they quit and just wanted to be “a normal kid.”
With appropriate rest and variation of activity to avoid excess stress to the developing body in youth athletes, overuse injuries are very preventable. Not only that, it will keep sports and activities fresh and fun, so young athletes can truly enjoy their time.
If your child is complaining about pain due to a sport, be sure to schedule an appointment. We specialize in sports medicine for all ages and can help get your young athlete feeling better.