After a long winter and a year with more limited activity, many of us are eager to see our kids get back out there, playing sports and getting much needed physical activity!!
That said, have you heard of sports overuse injuries? These injuries aren’t something you can see from the stands, like a collision or a fall. They start small, and are easy to ignore at first. If you catch this type of injury early enough, they’re no big deal. But if you wait, an overuse injury can turn into something serious – in the worst case, even impacting your child’s bone growth. So if you have an athlete in your life, what should they – and you – look for?We turned to Mark Rieger, MD, a renowned pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Connecticut Children’s, for advice.
Checklist for Athletes: Signs of an Overuse Injury
According to Dr. Rieger, until your child, teen or young adult is completely done growing, they’re especially vulnerable to overuse injuries, which are caused by repeated movements or stress to a body part.
The most common sports overuse injuries are to the elbow, shoulder, back, knee, ankle and heel – but actually, they can occur anywhere in the body. Most begin just as mild discomfort, and only during certain activities or movements, so it’s important for your athlete to listen to their body.
Here’s a checklist to help!
Does your athlete notice pain, soreness, ache, tenderness, tightness or swelling during any of the following activities?
- Sports-specific activities
- Ascending and descending stairs
- Going from a sitting to a standing position
- Sitting for extended periods of time, like at school
- Reaching overhead
- Putting on or carrying a backpack
- Other daily or recreational activities
If the answer is yes to any of the above, make sure your athlete stops any painful activities immediately.
“Pain is an athlete’s body telling them they shouldn’t be doing something,” says Dr. Rieger. “Don’t mask pain with anti-inflammatories. Don’t ignore it. If your child is experiencing pain, back off from activities until they’re pain-free. Then slowly restart the process of increasing their activity.”
Talk to your child’s coach about a plain to ease them back into activity when they’re ready. If the problem persists, you may want to schedule an appointment with a pediatric specialist like Dr. Rieger at Connecticut Children’s – and good news, there’s no waiting! Connecticut Children’s sports medicine experts offer walk-in and same-day appointments throughout the state, including Danbury and, as of April 12, Shelton. (You can also schedule by Video Visit.)
Dr. Rieger’s final words of wisdom on the subject?
“Prevent minor injury now to avoid major problems later,” he says. “Often, one injury leads to another. So young athletes should do everything they can to prevent – and catch – injuries in the first place.”
Connecticut Children’s is the only health system in Connecticut dedicated to children, and named a best children’s hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Women’s Choice. Mark A. Rieger, MD, has repeatedly been named a “top doctor” by Castle Connolly, the Patients’ Choice Award, America’s Top Surgeons and Orthopedists, and the Best Doctors in America. He has also been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Minimally Invasive Surgeons in the Tri-State Area” by New York magazine.