As kids practice passing in the outdoor summer soccer league,
shoot some hoops on the neighborhood court, and perfect their
backstroke at the local pool, the American Academy of Pediatrics
(AAP) aims to put the upcoming school sports season in safe
perspective for parents and their young athletes.
Overuse is to blame for up to half of all injuries seen in
pediatric sports medicine, says a new policy statement from the
AAP. Caused by repetitive actions that put too much stress on the
bones and muscles, overuse injuries can be a real problem because
they may affect kids' growing bones.
Some of the most common types of overuse injuries, which may
cause pain and swelling during or after playing, include Little
League elbow (from throwing), swimmer's shoulder (from the
overhead motion of swimming or throwing a ball), and shin splints
(from running on a hard surface). And when kids don't give
their injured parts enough time to heal, they risk reinjury.
Children and teens who play or practice too much can also
experience "burnout" (or overtraining syndrome), says the
report, which may cause physical and emotional symptoms like:
- regular joint or muscle pain
- increased resting heart rate
- decreased performance and enthusiasm for training or
- problems finishing usual activities
- changes in personality
What This Means to You
As with anything, moderation is key to keeping kids' sports
injuries to a minimum. To help make sports experiences safer - and
more enjoyable - for seasons to come, the AAP says it's wise
for kids to:
- Participate in sports that emphasize fun, safety,
sportsmanship, and learning skills.
- Join only one team per season.
- Take a break between seasons if they play multiple
- Limit training in a single sport to no more than 5 days a
week, giving kids at least 1 day off from any kind of organized
- Take 2- to 3-month breathers from one sport each year to give
bodies and brains a much-needed break.
To reduce your young athletes' chances of overextending
themselves physically or emotionally, also consider making sure
- Play sports appropriate for their skill level, size, and
physical and emotional maturity.
- Know the rules and techniques of the sport before they step
on the field.
- Warm up and cool down before and after practices and
- Use equipment and safety gear that's the right size and
- Drink plenty of fluids and get some rest during practices and
- Have coaches that are trained in first aid and CPR, don't
pressure kids to play too hard, and always enforce the use of
Also, keep an eye out for overuse injuries. When a young athlete
starts complaining of pain, that's the body's way of saying
there's a problem that needs to be addressed. Your doctor can
determine whether your child should see a sports medicine
And, although they may be ready to dive, dash, or dribble right
back in, kids with overuse injuries will often need to take a break
and then eventually ease into the game again to reduce the chances
Above all, says the AAP, sports should foster a lifelong
appreciation of fitness, physical activity, and healthy competition
- no matter what the activity or how old the player.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2007
Source: "Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in
Child and Adolescent Athletes,"
, June 2007.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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