Overuse Sports Injuries from Overexposure of Kids
According to recent research, as much as 40 percent of ER visits for kids aged 5 to 14 years are due to sports injuries. No one sport is most to blame. But experts think that many injuries are due to overexposure to one sport or from playing too many sports all at once. These types of injuries are referred to as “overuse injuries.”
One attorney explained, “Just about any sport can result in overuse injury for kids. Kids today are so vulnerable because their bodies need more recovery time than they are given. They often play one sport every day or two or three sports at once. They never get a day of rest.”
Parents often claim that they were as sports-minded in their own childhoods and didn’t suffer injuries. In years past, kids were more in control of their activities. Things have become more competitive and rigorous today.
Doctors are quick to point out that kids today are faced with strict schedules established by adults for adult-driven sports. Until the 1990s, most kids directed their own daily activities in backyard play or through running around their neighborhood. When this was the case, they would take breaks and moderate their energy level.
Dr. Michael Kelly of the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery, says that cross-training is better for the body than how many kids focus only on one sport with repetitive strain on particular muscle groups and bones.
He said, “It used to be that you played football and, when that was done, you might play basketball, and then later, you might play Little League or tennis. You went from sport to sport and didn’t have any sport-specific training to contribute to repetitive injuries.”
Children are really vulnerable to repetitive injuries since their bodies are not yet fully developed. The growth-plate areas are of most concern to doctors, as these are areas of soft developing tissue. Growth-plate areas are found at the end of long bones like those of arms and legs. Because these bones are still actively growing, they are not solid like adult bones.
The National Institutes of Health warns that 15 percent of childhood fractures are growth-plate injuries. Boys suffer these twice as frequently as girls. The greatest occurrence is among 14 to 16 year-old boys. For girls, the most injuries are seen between 11 and 13 years of age.
Keeping Kids Safe from Sports Injuries
To protect kids, parents do not necessarily need to shelter them. There are many precautionary actions that parents can take to make sure their children are safe while playing sports. Sometimes parents just need to be the occasional bad guy and enforce some time off for their child, especially if they are playing a sport where a kid could get hurt.
With technology that is constantly evolving, comes more risks of injury. Take the “balance boards” (think of a hoverboard with 2 big wheels) for example. These have been known to cause injuries such as a head injury, broke bones, sprained ankles and so on.
“Kids want to play when they want to play, even if they are hurt. It is up to the parent to protect their child and hold them back if an injury exists or could occur.” says a parent.
This can be difficult, particularly when there are so many other adults involved in children’s activities. Coaches, trainers, teachers and other parents often manage kids’ presence on a field or court. High school kids can be particularly hard to manage to prevent overuse injuries, because their eyes are on college scholarships and they are often quiet about pain or injuries.
It is advised that children stop playing when they feel pain. Team leaders, coaches and other personnel should be aware and trained to know that pain is a sign of injury. If such pain does not subside after several days of rest, a visit to the doctor should take the place of time on the practice field.
Doctors also advise that children refrain from specializing in one sport until they have reached puberty. Only one sport should be practiced each season with a break of one or two months off between. During such breaks, kids can be kids and enjoy bike riding or recreation through other activities. But they should not focus on their sports as they do during designated seasons.
If your child has suffered an injury during a sport and while under the super