Hawai'i's climate offers the perfect weather for families with young children to stay active 24/7, and that often includes playing the same sport year-round. However, doctors are seeing a rise in the number of overuse injuries in young athletes, particularly those who play the same sport all year long. Because young athletes are still growing, they are at a greater risk for injury than adults.
Choosing to stay in the same sport can stress the same body part and increase the risk of injury. In children who play baseball, elbow injuries are common, especially with the repetitive throwing and in pitchers. In basketball and volleyball players, ankle and knee injuries are common, particularly ACL injuries. Shoulder tendinitis, muscle strains, stress fractures, and strains and sprains are also some of the other types of overuse injuries we see in athletes.
Overuse injuries can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates. In children, these structures are still growing, and the growth is generally uneven. Bones grow first, which pulls at tight muscles and tendons. This uneven growth pattern makes younger athletes more susceptible to muscle, tendon, and growth plate injuries. Growth plates are the areas of developing cartilage where bone growth occurs in children. The growth plates are weaker than the nearby ligaments and tendons. Repetitive stress can lead to injury of the growth plate and disrupt the normal growth of the bone.
Parents can help avoid overuse injuries in their children by making sure they learn the fundamentals of their sport. Ensuring the proper form is used is important, especially for pitchers in baseball. It is also important that children have at least one day off during the week, if not more, to rest and recover. Rotating their activities is a good strategy. Taking time off from a sport to either rest or try a different activity helps give certain muscles a break and allows them to work others that may not be utilized as much. If your child is experiencing any pain or discomfort, it's important to see your physician to get it examined and make sure it's not anything serious. If your child does have an injury, it's also important for your child to refrain from playing until your physician clears your child to return. A visit to your physician can also be helpful before your child starts playing a new sport. Your physician is a great resource for information on how to keep your child healthy.
HealthierHawaii.org has many articles covering overuse injuries and injury prevention for children. Their sports medicine physicians will also be at Kids Fest 2017 this weekend, Hawai'i Pacific Health's annual community health education event for families at Bishop Museum. In addition to fun activities and free giveaways, including free bicycles and helmets for keiki ages 4-12, their physicians and health care professionals will be there to help educate children and families on staying healthy and avoiding injuries when playing and participating in sports.
For more information, visit www.HawaiiPacificHealth.org/KidsFest
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