Youth & Kids Sports Injuries
Youth Sports Injuries
Why Do You Need To Take Youth & Kids Sports Injuries Seriously?
Overall, male and female injury rates are becoming equal due to the gradually increasing female participation rate. 40% of all youth (children, teenagers and adolescents) injuries are sports-related. Injuries related to sports participation fall into two types of trauma:
- Macrotrauma due to a single traumatic event, e.g. fracture, and
- Microtrauma due to repetitive overuse.
Injuries in a young athlete should not be underinvestigated. They are usually asked or encouraged to “toughen up and play through the pain.” This approach is not in the young athlete’s best interest for the following reasons:
- it often leads to both delayed injury healing and returns to sports,
- it can turn an easily treatable injury into one that becomes difficult to treat,
- in some cases, it can result in severe permanent damage that precludes future sports participation, or
- it is a significant life-changing condition, e.g. malignancy, avascular necrosis.
An Accurate Diagnosis is Essential
In most cases, your physiotherapist can make an accurate diagnosis by listening to your child’s injury history and performing a thorough clinical examination. The adolescent’s age, sex, and level of participation in sports are essential. A description of how the injury occurred is valuable. Your physiotherapist will want to know if there was a “pop”, swelling, history of the previous injury, family history of a similar injury, locking or giving way, or other signs or symptoms. They’ll also ask you how much training and game time your child has to detect whether “overtraining” could predispose them to injury.
While special diagnostic tests such as X-ray, MRI and ultrasound scans may be required, in most cases, an accurate diagnosis can be made by taking a good history and performing a systematic examination of the injured structures.
What is Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee?
The separation of a piece of bone from its main base is Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). The most common region in the body to experience osteochondritis dissecans is your knee. This knee injury is usually due to one major macro event with repetitive macro trauma that prevents complete healing. This injury is potentially severe. Treatment varies from rest to surgery. Early diagnostic assessment and an Orthopaedic Surgeon’s opinion is vital.
What is Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Elbow?
Osteochondritis dissecans is a common source of lateral elbow pain. The immature bones of the elbow joint can compress from excessive overhand throwing. Small fragments of bone and cartilage may dislodge and potentially float within the joint. You may require surgery to remove the loose bodies.
The key to pain relief is active resting from the aggravating sport. If left untreated, throwing injuries in the elbow can become severe conditions. Depending upon the severity of a child’s injury, you may require surgery. If a child’s pain continues after a few days of complete rest, please seek the advice of your physiotherapist or doctor.
What is Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Ankle?
Osteochondritis dissecans is also reasonably common in the ankle joint.
An avulsion fracture occurs when a small segment of bone attached to a tendon or ligament gets pulled away from the main bone. The pelvis, hip, elbow and ankle are the most common locations for avulsion fractures in the young sportsperson.
Treatment of an avulsion fracture typically includes active rest, ice and protecting the affected area. This active rest period is followed by controlled exercises that help restore range of motion, improve muscle strength and promote bone healing. Your physiotherapist should supervise your post-avulsion exercises. Most avulsion fractures heal very well. You may need to spend a few weeks on crutches if you have an avulsion fracture around your hip. An avulsion fracture to your foot or ankle may require a cast or walking boot.
An excessive gap between the avulsed bone fragment and main bone may not rejoin naturally in rare cases. Surgery may be necessary to reunite them. In children, avulsion fractures that involve the growth plates also might require surgery. All avulsion fractures should be reviewed and managed by your trusted physiotherapist or an Orthopaedic Surgeon.
Stress Reaction of Growth Plates (Physis)
Repetitive stress on a child’s growth plate (physis) in the arms or legs, if ignored, can impair growth. It can also be painful.
Overuse stress reaction may lead to irregularity or widening of the growth plate. If you continue repetitive stress, the growth plate may become permanently damaged and could stop growing prematurely. This premature cessation could lead to a bone deformity. Early diagnosis and professional injury management are vital. Please seek the advice of your trusted sports physiotherapist or doctor.
Most overuse injuries, such as stress fractures and tendinopathies, are preventable. If your child suffers any overuse injury, the first treatment choice is to rest until you seek a medical opinion. In young athletes, this means avoiding the activity that is causing the problem, or reducing the intensity, until the discomfort resolves. Bed rest or immobilisation are rarely needed.
Managing your child’s “exercise load” is particularly important. “Gifted” athletes are often the victims of overtraining and over competing. Their natural athleticism encourages their school, club and representative coaches to overplay and overtrain these kids. They are usually the start of the team, and everyone wants them to play. As a parent, you must convey the volume of training and game time to their coaches. The good coaches will understand that overloading is a manageable problem, But unfortunately, not every coach does what is best for the child!
Tips for Parents and Coaches
Adolescents have a lot of enjoyable sporting years ahead of them. It would be a shame to see this enjoyment ended too soon.
- Allow your kids to play at their intensity and pace.
- Encourage your child to start getting in shape and conditioning a month before any team sports begin.
- Emphasise stretching and flexibility exercises.
- Start core stability and postural exercises early in life. Gymnasts start very soon to develop excellent body control. This core control should also apply to other sports.
- Ensure fields are in reasonably good condition and that protective equipment fits correctly (helmets, shoulder pads, shin guards, etc.).
When in doubt, seek expert medical advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In general, kids are motivated to play sports because it is fun. Parents and coaches who demand too much may be putting their children at risk.
Common Youth & Kids Sports Injuries
Elite Sports Injury Management
You probably already know that a sports injury can affect not only your performance but also your lifestyle. The latest research continues to change sports injury management considerably. Our challenge is to keep up to date with the latest research and put them to work for you.
How we treated you last year could vary significantly from how we treat you this year. The good news is that you can benefit considerably from our professional knowledge.
What Should You Do When You Suffer a Sports Injury?
Rest from painful exercise or a movement is essential in the early injury stage. "No pain. No gain." does not apply in most cases. The rule of thumb is - don't do anything that reproduces your pain for the initial two or three days. After that, you need to get it moving, or other problems will develop.
Ice or Heat?
We usually recommend avoiding heat (and heat rubs) in the first 48 hours of injury. The heat encourages bleeding, which could be detrimental if used too early. In traumatic injuries, such as ligament sprains, muscle tears or bruising, ice should help reduce your pain and swelling.
Once the "heat" has come out of your injury, you can use heat packs. We recommend 20-minute applications a few times a day to increase the blood flow and hasten your healing rate. The heat will also help your muscles relax and ease your pain. If you're not sure what to do, please call us to discuss your situation specifically.
Should You Use a Compressive Bandage?
Yes. A compressive bandage will help to control swelling and bleeding in the first few days. In most cases, the compressive dressing will also help support the injury as you lay down the new scar tissue. This early healing should help to reduce your pain. Some injuries will benefit from more rigid support, such as a brace or strapping tape. Would you please ask us if you are uncertain about what to do next?
Gravity will encourage swelling to settle at the lowest point. Elevation of an injury in the first few days is beneficial, especially for ankle or hand injuries. Think where your damage is and where your heart is. Try to rest your injury above your heart.
What Medication Should You Use?
Your Doctor or Pharmacist may recommend pain killers or an anti-inflammatory drug. It is best to seek professional advice as certain medications can interfere with other health conditions, especially asthmatics.
When Should You Commence Physio?
In most cases, "the early bird gets the worm". Researchers have found that the intervention of physiotherapy treatment within a few days has many benefits. These include:
- Relieving your pain quicker via joint mobility techniques, massage and electrotherapy
- Improving your scar tissue using techniques to guide the direction it forms
- Getting you back to sport or work quicker through faster healing rates
- Loosening or strengthening of your injured region with individually prescribed exercises
- Improving your performance when you return to sport - we'll detect and help you correct any biomechanical faults that may affect your technique or predispose you to injury.
What If You Do Nothing?
Research tells us that injuries left untreated take longer to heal and have lingering pain. They are also more likely to recur and leave you with either joint stiffness or muscle weakness. It's important to remember that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. The sooner you get on top of your symptoms, the better your outcome.
What About Arthritis?
Previously injured joints can prematurely become arthritic through neglect. Generally, there are four main reasons why you develop arthritis:
- An inappropriately treated previous injury (e.g. old joint or ligament sprains)
- Poor joint positioning (biomechanical faults)
- Stiff joints (lack of movement diminishes joint nutrition)
- Loose joints (excessive sloppiness causes joint damage through poor control)
What About Your Return to Sport?
Your physiotherapist will guide you safely back to the level of sport at which you wish to participate. If you need guidance, ask us.
What If You Need Surgery or X-rays?
Not only will your physio diagnose your sports injury and give you the "peace of mind" associated, but they'll also refer you elsewhere if that's what's best for you. Think about it. You could be suffering needlessly from a sports injury. Would you please use our advice to guide you out of pain quicker? And for a lot longer.
If you have any questions regarding your sports injury (or any other condition), don't hesitate to get in touch with your physiotherapist to discuss. You'll find our friendly staff happy to point you in the right direction.
Youth Spinal Pain
Teenager Neck & Back Pain
Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to back pain, mainly due to a combination of high flexibility and low muscle strength and posture control.
The competitive athlete and most individuals who exercise regularly or maintain fitness and core stability control are less prone to spine injury and problems due to the strength and flexibility of supporting structures. Luckily, issues involving the lower lumbar spine are rare in athletes and account for less than 10% of sports-related injuries. Injuries do occur in contact sports and with repetitive strain sports. Your physiotherapist can assist in the resolution of any deficits in this area.
Sports such as gymnastics, cricket fast bowlers, and tennis have a higher incidence of associated lumbar spine problems related to repetitive twisting and hyper-bending motions.
Spondylolisthesis is a significant concern and needs to be appropriately treated by a physiotherapist with a particular interest in these types of injuries. Luckily, most injuries are minor, self-limited, and respond quickly to physiotherapy treatment.
Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries
Lower Back (Lumbar Spine)
Midback (Thoracic Spine)
Neck (Cervical Spine)
For specific advice regarding youth neck or back pain, please seek the professional advice of your trusted spinal physiotherapist or doctor.