Preventing Common Overuse Injuries in Youth Athletes


Published:

Overuse injuries represent about 50 percent of all pediatric-related sports injuries, yet estimates show that over half of these injuries can be prevented. So what is leading to this uptick in overuse injuries in the youth athletes? A variety of factors are responsible, ranging from early sport specialization to poor mechanics and overtraining. As we invite the public to sign up for our Fit Family Challenge, which opens April 21, learn how best to get yourself in shape ahead of the challenge and how to avoid these kinds of injuries.

What is an Overuse injury?

An overuse injury is physical damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal. Often these injuries go untreated for far too long because the athlete thinks the pain is minor and they try to play through it.

Common Upper Body Overuse Injuries

Shoulder
Some of the most common overuse injuries are seen in the shoulders of youth athletes. Perhaps the two most common of all these shoulder injuries are Little Leaguer's Shoulder and Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy. Little Leaguer's Shoulder differs from Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy because in Little Leaguer's Shoulder the damage is done to the growth plate in the bone of the upper arm, while with Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy the damage is to the rotator cuff muscles that stabilize the shoulder. Swimming, baseball, tennis, softball and volleyball are some of the more common sports that result in shoulder overuse injuries. Most often the cause of these injuries are poor mechanics, too much throwing and muscle imbalances leading to decreased muscular strength and endurance. Symptoms of these injuries are pain, swelling, and the athlete will have trouble raising their arm.

Elbow
Overuse injuries pertaining to the elbow region are typically seen in baseball and tennis players because of repetitive throwing or swinging motions. Little Leaguer's Elbow is the most common example of an overuse injury to the elbow. Similar to Little Leaguer's Shoulder, this injury involves damage to the growth plates. This injury is caused by repetitive forces (such as pitching) that overload the area. Common causes involve throwing in too many innings, throwing inappropriate pitches for his/her age or trying to throw too hard. It is important for athletes, parents and coaches to monitor an athlete's pitch count and overall throwing during the week and to take note of fatigue. Pain, swelling and difficulty throwing or gripping items may all be signs of an overuse injury in the elbow.

Common Lower Body Overuse Injuries

Knee
Patellar Tendinopathy, (also known as jumper's knee because of the correlation with increased jumping and landing frequency) like all overuse injuries, develops over time and arises from the inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. Pain will continue to increase as the injury progresses. Pain is most commonly felt with bending the knee, jumping, running and kneeling. Athletes who participate in jumping sports such as basketball and volleyball are at the greatest risk, but this injury can occur in any sport.

Shins
A very common overuse injury that can be seen in athletes of almost any sport is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (shin splints). Shin splints result from irritation of the muscles and tendons surrounding the tibia. Possible causes include a rapid increase in training, poor flexibility, or repetitive contact (jumping or running) on hard surfaces. In the early stages, athletes will notice mild tenderness around their shins. If not addressed, athletes will further damage the area, creating discomfort eventually to a point where movement is greatly hindered.

Achilles Tendon
Achilles Tendinopathy is caused by repeated micro-tears to the Achilles tendon, leading to damage and loss of healthy tissue. Seen most frequently in endurance sports such as running, this injury can also be seen in individuals who participate in other sports or activities. Symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness in the calf, along the Achilles tendon, or along the heel where the Achilles tendon inserts. As in all other overuse injuries, increased training volume, poor mechanics and muscle imbalances can cause this injury.

Hip/Thigh
A Femoral Neck Stress Fracture is an overuse injury that can become serious if not properly detected and treated. Females are more likely to develop this injury than their male counterparts, and it is seen in endurance athletes such as runners. Pain is felt in the hip or groin area, and activities such as running, walking or stair climbing can become so painful that the individual will have to stop. If diagnosed early enough, athletes can reverse the progression with rest and physical therapy. In later development of the injury, an athlete will often be put on crutches for a period or even require surgery.

Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITB Syndrome) is another overuse injury that is commonly see in cyclists and runners. This injury occurs from poor hip and core muscle strength, poor mechanics and increase volume of running too quickly. Pain is most commonly felt along the outside of the knee, and may or may not be constant or only with activity.

How to Prevent Overuse Injuries

Since more than 50 percent of overuse injuries can be prevented, what can parents or coaches of a youth athletes do to help keep them healthy and in the game?

Prepare
Before  participating in sports, make sure a health care provider determines you are safe and healthy enough to participate. These can be done through pre-sports physicals and movement/fitness screenings. Also prepare for your sport or activity by maintaining a good level of overall fitness through the year. As an athlete, you shouldn't go from little to no activity for 6 months, then expect to go full tilt during your sports season. If you are not in season, participate in other types of physical activities to maintain your fitness level.

Train Properly
A good strength and conditioning program can be safe and effective for youth athletes of all ages. Although these programs may look different depending on a child's age and fitness level, a fitness professional or physical therapist can design a safe strength and conditioning or injury prevention program. Make sure you find a professional who has experience working with youth athletes, it's OK to ask about his/her experience working with a particular age group or sport. After all, we should all want what's best for the athlete. Correcting poor mechanics and addressing muscle imbalances before problems arise are two of the best ways to decrease your child's risk of having an overuse injury.

Don't Specialize Too Soon
Early sport specialization is one of the biggest causes of overuse injuries and burnout in youth athletes. Performing the same activity 365 days per year is harmful to the body, particularly while a child is still growing. By participating in multiple sports, your body is given a break from the stresses a particular sport may apply to it. Participating in multiple sports also creates a well-rounded athlete by allowing him or her to develop skills and athleticism needed to participate in different sports

Rest
This ties into not specializing too early, but there is a reason even professional athletes take time off during the off-season. The former great New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera was famous for saying that he would not touch a baseball for months after their season ended to allow his arm and his body to recover. A young athlete should take one day off during the week to rest both physically and mentally. They should also take a few months off during any calendar year from one particular sport. This doesn't mean they can't participate in a different sport or activity, it's actually recommended that they continue to participate in some sort of physical activity, but they should try something new. If you are a runner, try swimming for a few months to maintain cardiovascular fitness while you give your body time to rest. Basketball players could participate in baseball during their off season and vice versa.

Dr. Kevin Prue PT, DPT, CSCS is a graduate of Duke University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. He is the president and director of Prue Physical Therapy & Sports Performance located in Cary. He specializes sports and orthopedic physical therapy, sports performance training and injury prevention for youth and recreational athletes.

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Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
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Short class advertising for local class   I am a mom and retired CPA who is passionate about teaching teens about the high cost of their choices. I teach a fun, interactive "Game of Life meets...

Cost: $225

Where:
Hope Community Church- Apex
2080 E Williams Street
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Beyond Personal Finance
Contact Name: Charla McKinley
Website »

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Azevedo Family Psychology and Kym Azevedo will host an Art for Life group each Thursday from 5:30-6:30PM beginning January 16 and running through March 26. This group is completely free, kid...

Cost: FREE

Where:
1903 N. Harrison Ave
Suite 201
Cary, NC  27513
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Sponsor: Azevedo Family Psychology
Telephone: 919-624-9568
Contact Name: Kym Azevedo
Website »

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Explore astronomy, biology, architectural and engineering principles, technology and so much more through our hands-on, play-based activities. Spend an evening with your preschooler, experiencing...

Cost: free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Saint Rapahel Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Katie Mistele
Website »

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The goal of the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen Group workshop is to help you communicate more effectively with children.   In each session of the workshop you'll be introduced to an...

Cost: $12.95 materials fee

Where:
Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
3100 Damascus Church Road
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Wildflower School at Belle Vie Farm
Telephone: 919-260-6859
Contact Name: Shelley Welch
Website »

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Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
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Telephone: 919-962-7529

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join us for Family Trivia Night!  Test your knowledge of pop culture, books, music and more. Pizza and drinks provided.  Call or stop by to register: 919-245-2532. Best for kids ages 8 and up...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
Website »

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Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
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Kids! Are you sick of the Winter? Enjoy a Summer's night at Peach Road Center. Enjoy a Summer-like evening with us. Get into the luau spirit and play summer games!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Peach Road Community Center
911 Ileagnes Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: City or Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-807-8545
Contact Name: Christy Famolare

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover different types of birds and their habitats.​ No preregistration required. Meet...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

How did people predict the weather before The Weather Channel, and can animals really help? Come to the Finley Center to put our colonial weather proverbs to the test and make a pop-up woodchuck...

Cost: For all ages; FREE. Registration is not required

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Summer Garden Camps at the JCRA invite your child to investigate nature during half or full day camps.  Campers tend to the garden, harvest vegetables, catch insects, and create crafts from the...

Cost: Varies depending on camp week

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Join us to meet the educators, see the farm and learn more about our Preschool for 3-5 year olds and Camps for 4-10 year olds. We'll have a campfire for some warmth but please come dressed for the...

Cost: 0

Where:
Longleaf Forest School
4826 Mt. Moriah Road
Durhan, NC  27707
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Sponsor: Longleaf Forest School
Contact Name: Tara Lawson
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival, also Lunar New Year Festival. Largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE has vocal and orchestral music, folk dance, Lion and Dragon dances, martial arts, and comic...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Chinese New Year Festival or Lunar New Year Festival, largest public event in the Triangle. MAIN STAGE with musical and dance performances, Lion Dance Dragon Dance, martial arts, comic skits emceed...

Cost: $10 entry at door, military and senior discounts, kids<6 free

Where:
Dorton Arena, NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Road
Enter Gate 1,2,4,5,11
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Sponsor: NC Triangle Area Chinese American Society
Contact Name: Michael, Shin
Website »

More information

Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Did you know that Disney, Netflix, Google and NASA, just to name a few, are all using Python? Python can be used for creating web applications, automation, programming robots and artificial...

Cost: Free: registration required

Where:
, NC


Website »

More information

FEB. 1, 2020 | 1 – 4 P.M. | BLUE JAY POINT COUNTY PARK Spend a winter afternoon getting to know Blue Jay Point County Park at our Winter Open House. Whether you’re a regular visitor or have...

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
Website »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
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More information

Come on out to support the NC State Gymnastics team as they take on North Carolina in a RED out on February 1st! The first 300 fans in attendance will receive an exclusive red NC State Gymnastics...

Cost: $3-$7

Where:
Reynolds Collisuem
2411 Dunn Ave.
Raleigh , NC  27607
View map »

More information

Hounded by Death, the character of Everybody desperately seeks out everyone and everything they know in hope of finding something meaningful to take to the grave. These 90 minutes of theatrical...

Cost: Ticket prices start at $15

Where:
PlayMakers' Repertory Company
120 Country Club Rd
Chapel Hill, NC  27599
View map »


Telephone: 919-962-7529

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.