Not all injuries are caused by a single, sudden twist, fall, or collision.
Overuse injuries occur gradually over time, when an athletic activity is repeated so often, parts of the body do not have enough time to heal between playing.
Overuse injuries can affect:
- Growth Plates
For example, overhand pitching in baseball can be associated with injuries to the elbow.
Swimming is often associated with injuries to the shoulder. Gymnastics and cheerleading are two common activities associated with injuries to the wrist and elbow.
Stress fractures are another common overuse injury in young athletes.
Bone is in a constant state of turnover—a process called remodeling. New bone develops and replaces older bone.
If an athlete’s activity is too great, the breakdown of older bone occurs rapidly, and the body cannot make new bone fast enough to replace it. As a result, the bone is weakened and stress fractures can occur—most often in the shinbone and bones of the feet.
Catastrophic Sports Injuries
Many sports, especially contact sports, have inherent dangers that put young athletes at special risk for severe injuries. Even with rigorous training and proper safety equipment, children are at risk for severe injuries to the head and neck with damage to the brain or spinal cord.
Catastrophic injuries have been reported in a wide range of sports, including ice hockey, wrestling, football, swimming, soccer, pole vaulting, cheerleading, and gymnastics.
It is important for coaches, parents, and athletes to be aware of the guidelines and regulations developed for each sport to prevent head and neck injury.
Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries. They are caused by a blow to the head or body that results in the brain moving rapidly back and forth inside the skull.
Although some sports have higher instances of concussion—such as football, ice hockey, and soccer—concussions can happen in any sport or recreational activity.
In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that young athletes with concussions be evaluated and cleared by a doctor before returning to sports. The American Academy of Neurology issued a similar statement, and stressed that doctors who clear athletes for return to sports should be trained in managing and assessing sports concussions.
Growth Plate Injuries
Growth plates are areas of developing cartilage tissue near the ends of long bones. When a child becomes full-grown, the growth plates harden into solid bone.
Because growth plates are the last portion of bones to harden (ossify), they are vulnerable to fracture.
Growth plates regulate and help determine the length and shape of adult bone, therefore, injuries to the growth plate can result in disturbances to bone growth and bone deformity.
Growth plate injuries occur most often in contact sports like football or basketball and in high impact sports like gymnastics.