Did you know that 1 in 4 Australian children are classified as overweight or obese. There has never been a better time to encourage our children to participate in sport. The more sport a child plays, the less the chance of diabetes and heart disease in adulthood.

The good news is that about two thirds of Australian kids regularly do competitive sports – whether at school, in weekend local competitions, or at the state and national competition level.

BUT CAN YOU HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

It isn’t hard to understand that the more sport the child plays, the greater the risk of injury. The risk is low in the under 10s – but accelerates from about the age of 12 on. That's when kids, aware of their increased body and muscle strength after puberty, start to get more serious about sport and pursue it aggressively (boys especially). They train more often and harder. They may play sport all year round and they may play more than one sport at a time.

Most acute injuries are from falls (especially in netball and soccer), or being hit by another player (as in a tackle in rugby and Aussie rules).

The biggest cause of injuries (about 60 per cent) is overuse – where a bone, muscle or tendon is repeatedly used far more than it was designed to be. The tissues become damaged, and because the child keeps using them, they don't get a chance to heal and the injury becomes chronic.

WHAT SHOULD I BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR?

There are 4 stages to overuse injuries in sport.

  1. Pain in the affected area after physical activity

  2. Pain during physical activity, not restricting performance

  3. Pain during physical activity, restricting performance

  4. Chronic, persistent pain even at rest

 Sometimes the child doesn't make the connection between the pain and the sport because the symptoms may be vague and fatigue and poor performance are more troubling than the pain.

If it continues, overuse can lead to 'burnout'.

WHAT CHILDREN ARE MOST AT RISK?

Kids most at risk from overuse injury are those:

  • who play the same sport on more than one team, or who play several different sports.

  • who don't take breaks from sport and training.

  • who play all weekend.

The American Academy of Paediatrics has posted the following guidelines for parents and coaches to help prevent overuse injuries in children.

1.       Encourage athletes to try to have at least 1 to 2 days off per week from competitive athletics, sport-specific training, and competitive practice to allow them to recover both physically and psychologically.

2.       Advise children and coaches that the weekly training time, number of repetitions, or total distance should not increase by more than 10% each week.

3.       Encourage the child to take at least 2 to 3 months away from a specific sport during the year.

4.       Emphasize that the focus of sports participation should be on fun, skill acquisition, safety, and sportsmanship.

5.       Encourage the athlete to participate on only 1 team during a season. If the athlete is also a member of a traveling or rep’ team, then that participation time should be incorporated into the training program rather than tacked on.

6.       Encourage the development of educational opportunities for children, parents, and coaches to provide information about appropriate nutrition and fluids, sport safety, and the avoidance of overtraining to achieve optimal performance and good health.

7.       Convey a special caution to parents with younger athletes who participate in multigame tournaments in short periods of time.

If the child complains of non-specific muscle or joint problems, fatigue, or lack of enthusiasm about practice or competition, it could be burnout. Take the child to a GP, a sports physician or a physiotherapist.

AT NORTHSIDE SPORTS MEDICINE WE HAVE CLINICIANS EXPERIENCED IN SCREENING FOR OVERUSE INJURIES AS WELL AS MANAGING YOUNG ATHLETES WHO ALREADY HAVE PROBLEMS. CONTACT OUR TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS TODAY AND STAY IN THE GAME.