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Injury Prevention With the Return of Youth Sports

As we begin to emerge from the global pandemic slowly, our children are eager to resume engagement in the sports they love. We are all happy to see human interaction and physical activity return.  However, with the return of youth sports comes the return of sports injuries, and it becomes vital to refresh ourselves on youth injury prevention.

A common cause of youth sports injuries is overuse due to single-sport specialization.  In generations past, children changed sports with the seasons throughout the year, but today it is common for a child to play just one sport year-round. Many children play on more than one team at the same time, as well.  This concern is currently elevated due to the perceived need to “make up” for lost seasons in 2020, and the risk increases by the relative lack of conditioning over the last year.

When a child participates in just one sport, they continually use the same muscle groups and apply unchanging stress to specific areas of the body. This can lead to muscle imbalances that put children at serious risk for overuse injuries combined with overtraining and inadequate periods of rest.

Coaches and parents should be aware of the more common signs of overuse injury. These include:

  • Pain. This pain is not associated with an acute injury, such as a fall. The pain often increases with activity and is improved with rest.
  • Swelling
  • Changes in form or technique
  • Decreased interest in practice

Many overuse injuries in children are preventable. The key to prevention is to avoid overdoing any single sport and give growing bodies adequate rest between practices or games.  Specific tips to prevent overuse injuries include:

  • Limit the number of teams in which your child is playing in one season. Kids who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries.
  • Do not allow your child to play one sport year-round — taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.

John Wiemann, MD

About the Author: John Wiemann, MD is board certified in Orthopaedic Surgery and provides services at University Orthopaedic Associates. Dr. Wiemann holds a faculty appointment with University of California, San Francisco in the UCSF Fresno Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. 

To learn more about Dr. Wiemann and University Orthopaedic Associates, click here.