We are seeing more and more overuse injuries in children.
When I grew up (which wasn’t all that long ago), I played netball in the winter and tennis in the summer combined with swimming all year round. I eventually switched netball for basketball and dropped the tennis and eventually dropped the swimming too. I also tried my hand (or foot) at soccer, aussie rules, Badminton, dancing and volleyball. The downside to jumping around to different activities was I was never amazing at any one sport.
I was good at most of them though. We made finals in just about every team I was on. There were only a few select kids who were amazing that were driven around the country side by their parents to compete at state level and nationally. There was still usually an off season too. I’m not sure if it was a country thing, maybe I would have had a different experience if I’d grown up in the city? Or maybe things have changed that much and kids sport is taken more seriously now days?
I don’t know what’s changed or why things have changed but I am treating more and more kids who are mostly playing just one sport or activity. We have swimmers, dancers, gymnasts, netball players, Aussie rules players, cricketers, tennis players and golfers who are all under 15 years of age and spending the majority of their time on the one activity. Some of them are fantastic, which is great, nothing wrong with developing a talent, but the problem is they’re not getting the balance the mixed sports used to bring which is leading to overuse injuries in children.
When you have a mixture of sports, your body is always having to use different muscles, but when you are playing and practicing the same sport, dance routine or skill over and over, the same muscles, tendons and joints are being loaded over and over again leading to overuse of the tissue. Some of my primary and high school buddies have gone on to play at the top level of their field in sport. Walking, diving, AFL and badminton are a few just off the top of my head. I never remembered them training all year round. I remember them keeping fit; seeing them run along the highway, playing other sports and swimming for recovery. Not only are kids seeming to play or train for more of the year, during the season many kids are playing on multiple teams of the same sport which involves double the amount of training as well as multiple game days, leading to an increase in overuse injuries. Those who are doing dancing and gymnastics are invited to increase their hours to more than 20 hours per week in some cases.
So what am I getting at here?
If it’s a well rounded sport, your child is having fun and it is keeping them fit then great! Children need about an hour of vigorous exercise every day for physical and mental health. However if they increases to 2 hours or more of vigorous exercise per day it can become detrimental to their health and lead to overuse. Furthermore if it is a repetitive sport where they are practicing the same routines or skills over and over it can lead to overuse injuries in children participating in the sport.
In the past if a child complained of pain it was simply put down to growing pains, which was correct in most cases. Now days I would be less reliant on a child’s pain being a growing pain. If your child is in a situation where they are practicing skills, routines or sports repetitively, and they are complaining of pain it is worth getting it checked out if it lasts more than a couple of days or if it is very intense. It could be a stress fracture, tendinopathy, a strained muscle or an issue with a growth plate just to name a few. I’d love to get a bit of a conversation going on here, if you have a comment to make on this topic, please feel free!
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