The demand placed on the bodies of our young athletes today is greater than it ever has been. Even children on intramural sports teams can be exposed to several hours of practice a day for 4-5 days per week while in-season. Saturdays and sometimes even Sundays are then dedicated to further hours of exertion and load on the body. Running alongside this increased workload has been an increase in the rate of “overuse” injuries in these young sporting participants. Keeping an eye out for these overuse injuries and working to actively avoid them can prove to be a vital step in maintaining a steady curve of athletic development throughout an athlete’s developmental years.
Symptoms: Pain at the elbow, through the forearm, or at the wrist. Problems with using the hand to squeeze and turn at the same time.
Causes: Tennis Elbow
Avoiding this Injury: Engaging in full-fledged warmups to engage the small structures around the elbow joint before begin full participation, stretching, application of sport-specific technique to avoid putting unnecessary force on the elbow joint during sports activity.
Little League Shoulder
Symptoms: Pain or swelling through the shoulder, especially when directly related to recent throwing volume. Issues with overall mobility and strength in the shoulder of the throwing arm.
Causes:LLS is generally caused by the repeated instances of microtrauma from the twisting motions involved in the throwing motion. This microtrauma eventually results in notable injury to the growth plate of the injured shoulder, causing widening and inflammation.
Avoiding this Injury: Engaging in full-fledged warmups to engage the small structures around the elbow joint before begin full participation, stretching, and tracking the throwing volume of children at all age groups to directly address overuse.
Symptoms:Pain and swelling at the wrist on the same side as the thumb. Reduced range of motion and strength in the wrist.
Causes:Gymnast’s Wrist is another term for inflammation at the growth plate between the radius and hand/wrist structures. This is caused by repeated acts of weight-bearing on the wrist over a period of time.
Avoiding this Injury:Engaging in full-fledged warmups to engage the small structures around the elbow joint before begin full participation, stretching, strengthening exercises for the wrist and forearms, and wrist guards.
It’s important to remember that because these athletes are still growing they will have different needs and be prone to different injuries than adult athletes would. Their growing bones place a large amount of stress on the muscles and tendons which are racing to keep up. Growth plates are also much more injury-prone in their pre-fusion form in young bodies. In youth sports it’s almost never worth it to “play through the pain”, untreated injuries at this age can have a lasting impact on an athlete’s career.