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Preventing Overuse Injuries In Youth Athletes

Michelle Shafiro, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, Clinical Manager of HSS Westchester
Michelle Shafiro, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, Clinical Manager of HSS Westchester Photo Credit: HSS

With the start of another school year comes the beginning of the fall sports season. Keeping your children injury-free may or may not be on your mind, but either way it shouldn’t be something you worry about. The benefits of physical activity far outweigh its potential risks. According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

The best ways to safeguard your child against overuse injuries are rest and sport diversification.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having at least 1-2 days off per week from a sport to decrease the chance for injuries. In addition, taking three non-consecutive months off from a sport per year allows for adequate physical and physiological recovery.

There continues to be a lot of discussion around sports specialization and it is found that children at younger ages who participate in multiple sports decrease their chance of injuries, stress and burnout. Delaying specialization until late adolescence may lead to a higher chance of accomplishing athletic goals and also provides a greater chance of lifetime sports involvement, lifetime physical fitness and the possibility of elite sports participation.

There are a multitude of reasons why it is beneficial for children to participate in athletics including mental, physical, psychological and social impacts, to name a few. Injuries are one of the top causes for sports attrition so following these basic principles when planning your child's sports schedule for the year can help reduce their chances of injuries and encourage continued involvement in the sports they love.

If you do suspect your child has suffered an injury, it is best to be evaluated by a primary care sports medicine physician or orthopedic surgeon who specializes in pediatrics for a prompt diagnosis to develop a treatment plan.