Recently, much attention has been given to the drastic increase in the incidence of serious injuries in youth sports, like baseball, from overuse. In my practiced as an orthopedic and sports physical therapist, I have seen more overuse injuries in youth sports leading to surgery in the past 5 years than in previous 20 combined. Some examples are: little league elbow, ulna collateral ligament strain of the elbow (often requiring Tommy John surgery) and Dead Arm Syndrome at the shoulder. While these injuries can sometimes be related to poor mechanics, overuse is almost always the true culprit. Statistics clearly show that more children are participating in more competitive organized sports year round at an earlier age than in previous generations. Not coincidentally, a significant increase in the number of injuries has occurred and more than 50% of sports injuries in children and teens are due to overuse.
When a bone, muscle, tendon or ligament is subjected to repetitive stress without adequate healing or recovery time, tissue damage occurs. Examples include:
Little league elbow: The muscles, tendons and immature elbow bone where the tendon attaches at the elbow become inflamed due to overuse.
Ulna collateral ligament strain: The ligament on the inside of the elbow becomes inflamed, partially or completely torn from excessive stress and overuse. It can often require surgery called Tommy John surgery, named after the all-star baseball pitcher who resurrected his career following the surgery to repair his ulna collateral ligament.
Dead Arm Syndrome at the shoulder: The posterior capsule of the shoulder (back of the shoulder where the rotator cuff attaches) is overused and stressed. Overtime, the tissues react, scar and tighten, creating an imbalance and abnormal forces on the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues. Eventually, an athlete cannot throw without pain, must compensate resulting in loss of velocity and effectiveness.
Overuse injuries are manifested in the form of pain, swelling, and inflammation, loss of range of motion, strength and function. Tennis elbow in tennis players, little league elbow in baseball players and shin splints in runners are a common example of an overuse injuries.
Children Are Not Small Adults! Therefore, they should not be treated the same way. Their bodies CANNOT take the same amount of stress as an adult because they are still growing and immature soft tissues and bones are less resilient to stress. Little league elbow and dead arm at the shoulder are two of the best examples.
REMEMBER: Kids are not small adults! Keep it light and have FUN!
SOURCE: The American Academy of Pediatrics
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.