Repetitive Stress Injuries in Sports
What Are Repetitive Stress Injuries?
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) happen when movements are repeated over and over, causing damage to a bone, tendon, or joint.
What Causes Repetitive Stress Injuries in Sports?
Repeated motions in sports cause many RSIs (or overuse injuries). RSIs are most likely to happen in kids and teens in the area of growth plates. A growth plate is a layer of near the end of a bone where most of the bone's growth happens. It is weaker and more at risk for injury than the rest of the bone.
Who Gets Repetitive Stress Injuries?
Anyone can get an RSI from sports. But they're more likely to happen if someone:
- trains too much or doesn't train properly
- has weakness from an old injury
Common RSIs that happen in young athletes include:
- stress fractures
- swimmer's shoulder
- Little league elbow/pitching elbow
- runner's knee
- jumper's knee
- Achilles tendonitis
- Sever's disease
- Osgood-Schlatter disease
- shin splints
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Repetitive Stress Injuries?
Signs and symptoms of RSIs include:
How Are Repetitive Stress Injuries Diagnosed?
To diagnose RSIs, health care providers ask about symptoms and physical activities and do an exam. If needed, an imaging study such as an X-ray, MRI, or bone scan may be done.
How Are Repetitive Stress Injuries Treated?
Slowing down now can help your child get back to sports as soon as possible. Health care providers usually recommend some or all of the following for an RSI:
- Rest: Your child may need to either cut down or completely stop activities until the RSI heals.
- Change in training: If allowed to train, your child may need to do less intense training, train for shorter times, or train less often.
- Cold: To help with swelling and irritation, apply an ice or a cold pack to the sore area every 1–2 hours, for 15 minutes at a time. (Put a thin towel over the skin to protect it from the cold.)
- Medicine: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) can help with pain and swelling. Follow the directions that come with the medicine for how much to give and how often.
- Physical therapy: PT helps keep muscles and joints strong and flexible.
- Elastic bandage or splint: Wearing one of these can support the sore area and help ease swelling.
What Else Should I Know?
Sports are a great way for kids to learn new skills, work with peers and coaches, challenge themselves, and stay in shape. Parents play an important role in helping kids avoid injuries. To help your child prevent repetitive stress injuries:
- Limit the number of teams your child plays on per season.
- Encourage your child to play different sports throughout the year.
- Make sure that your child's coaches encourage safe training.