At the Andrews Institute, we offer a comprehensive team of sports medicine specialists, orthopaedic surgeons and physical therapists with extensive experience treating children with overuse injuries. Our experts work together to restore your child’s health, enabling a safer and faster return to normal activities and sports.
Overuse injuries happen from repetitive trauma over time. Today, such injuries are more common in children because many play sports year-round, offering minimal time for rest and recovery. In fact, half of all sports injuries in children are overuse injuries.
Common overuse injuries include:
- Growth plate injuries: When left untreated, mild overuse injuries can result in more serious conditions such as growth plate injuries in which the growing part of your child’s bone can fracture.
- Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis): An injury to the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone, jumper’s knee can cause pain, swelling and tenderness and is common among basketball and volleyball players.
- Little League elbow or shoulder: Also known as pitcher’s elbow or shoulder, this injury is caused by repetitive overhand throwing and leads to swelling in the affected joint. (Learn more about elbow instability.)
- Osgood-Schlatter disease: With this knee injury, the growth plate at the top of the shinbone swells, causing pain and tenderness in the knee joint. Children may experience worsening symptoms when running or jumping during sports.
- Osteochondritis dissecans: A joint condition that happens when a small piece of cartilage and bone breaks loose, osteochondritis dissecans causes joint pain and limits range of motion.
- Sever’s disease: A common heel injury in children, Sever’s disease is caused by frequent stress and pressure placed on the heel bone and the Achilles tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel.
- Shin splints: Defined as pain and tenderness in the shin, shin splints happen when young athletes increase their amount of running, especially on hard surfaces, or wear improper footwear during activities like sports.
- Strains and sprains: Children’s muscles, ligaments and tendons may be injured with overuse, leading to strains and sprains.
- Stress fractures: When too much repetitive pressure is placed on a child’s bone, it may cause a tiny crack called a stress fracture. (Learn more about fractures.)
- Spinal problems: Some sports, including football and gymnastics, require children to flex and extend their spines more than usual. Sometimes, these repetitive movements cause spinal problems in children such as spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.
Symptoms of Overuse Injuries
Common signs and symptoms of overuse injuries include:
- Decreased strength or speed
- Diminished form or technique
Treating Overuse Injuries
When it comes to overuse injuries, our physicians and therapists can tailor treatment to meet your child’s unique needs. Our in-house physical therapists use the latest, most effective techniques to improve your child’s movement and function and reduce risk of re-injury. Together, our goal is to ensure your child’s quick and easy recovery.
Nonsurgical treatments can include:
- Medication to help manage pain
- Activity modification
- Crutches or bracing
- In-house physical therapy and rehabilitation
If your child’s symptoms worsen, or your doctor detects a more complex orthopaedic condition, we may recommend surgery. Learn more about arthroscopy, one of the available surgeries.
Overuse Injuries FAQs
How can I help protect my child from an overuse injury?
You can help your child avoid many overuse injuries. Make sure your child has the right gear and uses the proper form when starting a new sport. Also, encourage your child to enjoy a wide variety of activity and, most importantly, rest when necessary.