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Common Athletic Injuries in Children and Teenagers

Common Athletic Injuries in Children and Teenagers
February 19th, 2021 / Injury

Common Athletic Injuries in Children and Teenagers

Injuries are a natural part of sport. In younger athletes, overuse commonly leads to overloading of certain structures, which creates an imbalance between tissue stress and recovery time. When this occurs, the periods of stress outweigh the periods of healing, and injury is often not far away. Because children develop at different rates and don’t always have perfectly balanced musculoskeletal systems, high amounts of explosive activity can sometimes lead to abnormal tissue stresses and injury. When biomechanics, gait and hereditary factors come in to play, it is important to know what to look out for and how to manage a new injury.

Some common running-related injuries in younger athletes are:

  • Runners knee, or patellofemoral syndrome
  • Sever’s disease, or calcaneal aphpysitis
  • Osgood Schlatter’s disease, or tibial tubercle apophysitis
  • Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome
  • ITB (iliotibial band) syndrome
  • Stress fractures

Pain is the result of your body letting you know that something is wrong. It is always important to mention pain to your parents, coach or health care provider and should always be taken seriously. Sports-related pain should be treated the same way an adult injury would be treated… appropriate rest, modified activity, ice, anti-inflammatories, flexibility and strength training, footwear and orthotic changes can all potentially benefit a developing athlete.

Runners knee:

  • Pain at the front of the knee that increases with running, walking up and down stairs, jumping and squatting
  • Thought to be caused by imbalances of the upper leg muscles (hips, thighs and glutes), and by hypermobility or movement in the foot and ankle – either or both of these factors can contribute to poor knee alignment.
  • For example, if an athlete has knock-knees, the outside of the knee may experience high amounts of load. The kneecap may not track over the knee correctly, and pain can occur.

Sever’s disease and Osgood Schlatter’s disease:

  • Sever’s and Osgood Schlatter’s are both forms of apophysitis, which is inflammation at the attachment of a tendon to bone
  • Sever’s affects the attachment of the Achilles (calcaneal) tendon to the heel, as well as inflammation of the growth plate inside the heel bone (calcaneus)
  • Osgood Schlatter’s is inflammation of the tendon that attaches to the bone (tibia) at the front of your lower leg, just below the knee
  • Athlete’s experiencing recent periods of growth may be susceptible to these conditions
    • Bones can grow at faster rates than soft tissue, leading to inflammation where they connect
    • Some muscles may develop greater strength than other muscles, meaning they become dominant and create small alignment changes which become painful with extensive periods of load
  • Rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, activity modification, exercise programs and footwear / orthotic changes can all potentially improve these conditions.

Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome):

  • Shin splints is a painful condition that affects the front of your lower legs. Shin splints are caused by repetitive loading stress during running and jumping activities.
  • The anterior muscle compartment of the leg is the area affected. This muscle group includes the tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus muscles. These muscles collectively work to dorsiflex your ankle (bring the top of your foot towards the sky), invert your foot (make the bottom of your foot face inwards) and extend your toes (bring them towards the sky).
  • Overuse of these muscles due to biomechanical or strength imbalances causes inflammation of structures inside the muscle compartment, resulting in swelling and pain.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome:

  • The ITB is a band of fascia that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of your knee
  • ITB syndrome often results in pain at the outside of the knee. Muscle imbalances in the hip and thigh can result in the ITB pulling excessively where it connects at the outside of the knee joint.
  • Anti-inflammatory treatment can assist with pain in acute stages of ITB syndrome
  • Long term treatment requires strength and flexibility training to even out muscle imbalances, often focusing on hip abductors and other surrounding muscles.

Stress fractures:

  • Stress fractures can occur in bones after long periods of loading and repetitive mechanical stress
  • Stress fractures commonly occur in the bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula), as well as some of the longer toes of the foot (metatarsals).

Our advice if you’re experiencing any type of injury… visit the professionals. We can assess the site of pain, your biomechanics, gait and running technique to determine any areas that may need addressing. If you are currently experiencing pain, we have interventions that will help with your recovery and allow you to continue doing what you love.

References

Pengel, K. B. (2014). Common overuse injuries in the young athlete, in Pediatric Annals.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Simon Bartold (2017). Growing pains: a descriptor for lazy or disinterested practitioners?
https://www.bartoldclinical.com

InformedHealth.org . Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee): overview.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Diego Costa Astur et. al. (2016). Stress fractures: definition, diagnosis and treatment.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Shabbir Hussain et. al., (2013). Sever’s disease: a common cause of paediatric heel pain.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Raju Vaishya et. al., (2016). Apophysitis of the tibial tuberosity (Osgood-Schlatter disease): a review.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Nirav H. Shelat, Georges Y. El-Khoury (2016). Pediatric stress fractures: a pictorial essay.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Children’s Hospital Colorado (n.d.). Shin Pain and Shin Splints.
https://www.childrenscolorado.org

Sydney Orthopaedic Specialists (n.d.). Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
https://www.sydneyorthopaedic.com.au

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