Presented by St. Christopher's Hospital for Children

How To Read The Signs Your Child Has an Overuse Sports Injury (And Prevent Them In The Future!)

Photo credit: iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Photo credit: iStock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

From football to soccer, cheerleading, field hockey and cross-country, fall sports season is in full gear. And even though it’s early in the season, many kids and teens are already starting to feel the effects of tough practices or playing a little too long in the leaves. An overuse injury is nothing to take lightly.

“Overuse injuries are becoming more common because kids are specializing in sports at an early age,” says Bobby Horn, PT, DPT, CSCS, Cert. MDT and Manager of Sports Therapy at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. “They are playing a sport year round and many times playing on multiple teams.”

So, while elevating and icing an ache or pain for about 10-15 minutes will reduce pain and swelling, he says, sometimes an injury may require time off and physical therapy to ensure young athletes can play in the game today as well as in the future.

“We want all kids to stay healthy and safe so that they can play their sports and participate in their activities for a long time without limitations,” says Horn.

Is it an injury?

If your child comes off the field or inside from playing and complains about pain, discomfort and/or swelling it’s better to err on the side of caution, says Horn. Rest, ice and elevate the area where your child complains of pain or achiness. Take note if you notice swelling, redness, tenderness or that they have trouble putting weight on the area, if their pain still exists after a 15-minute ice session or the pain creeps back in the next time they’re playing, a trip to the doctor may be in order.

For shoulder, neck, or head pain there’s a different set of protocol. If your child has pain in these areas and/or complains of memory loss, headaches, dizziness, nausea, or trouble seeing make sure they stop playing immediately and schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.

Should I call a doctor?

“It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment with a physician when the child is complaining about pain, discomfort and/or swelling,” says Horn.

Seeing your physician will ensure you follow the appropriate next steps for treatment–icing or a more intense plan that includes physical therapy sessions. Therapy sessions will help heal the injury while also educating you and your child on ways to prevent future injuries.

Head, neck and shoulder injuries–or when kids say they “just don’t feel right”–are best treated by visiting your doctor as soon as possible.

How can I prevent this from happening again?

Every injury is different and may respond differently to treatments. In most cases, after pain strikes, it’s important to take it easy on the affected area so tissues and muscles have the time they need to repair and strengthen, says Horn. A stretching routine, proper hydration and balanced diet will also help active kids stay active.

“Proper hydration is necessary before, during and after playing a game or outside,” says Horn. “Eating apples or bananas with peanut butter as a snack can help preserve energy for kids who are playing outside for a long period of time or participating in a weekend tournament.”
For more information on sports injuries and prevention visit St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

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