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Overuse injuries in kids

Having school aged children involved in sports has been great for my kids and the lessons they learn including working together as a team, having fun, playing fair and taking care of their bodies. The last lesson has been an interesting challenge for my family over the past year. My 12 year old daughter spent a few months dealing with overuse injuries from playing basketball, soccer and skiing. She had Achilles pain and knee pain. As a Physical Therapist, I knew exactly what to do to help her! As her mom, I was frustrated that she wasn't doing what I told her to do to get better. So, this became a learning experience for both of us.

What is an overuse injury? It occurs when there is repetitive stress placed upon a muscle, tendon, ligament or bone. Most of the time, it occurs where there is muscle imbalance. Common causes are from playing one sport year-round, not enough rest, and sometimes a growth spurt. The symptoms are usually pain, swelling and an inability to perform their sport at their normal level.

Our journey started in February of 2021. My daughter started having Achilles pain with running. I showed her the appropriate stretching to perform, we tried some tape and made sure her shoes were fitting well. I told her to do her stretches twice a day and at practice too. I thought that it was taken care of. As a mom, I should have known better! Kids never listen to their parents. She continued to complain about her feet and when I asked her if she was doing what I told her to do, she said, "yes, I did it once."

Well, the ankle pain progressed into knee pain as she continued trying to do her activities. She started limping with running and having pain going up and down the stairs. This is when I had to merge my work and mom roles. We took a break from activity and I realized that even though I had given her printed pictures of the exercises, I had to set aside the time to do the exercises with her (from all parents, here is the exasperated sigh). But after 2 weeks, she saw that the exercises were making her better and was able to continue them independently.

There was a lot of tape involved, a massage gun, and some tears. Ultimately, we learned that as she continues to play competitive sports taking care of injuries and her body in a timely fashion reduced her time away from her activity and improved her performance. And, maybe listening to mom once in awhile isn't a bad idea either...

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