Now more than ever, physical therapists are seeing repetitive injuries in young athletes once only seen in collegiate level athletes.

We are all focused on keeping our kids active, and organized sports are a great way to do that. That said, playing sports carries some risk of injury. The more competitive the sport becomes, the more that risk grows.

Adolescent athletes are at a particularly high risk for repetitive sports injuries. These are injuries that occur from repeated stress on one joint or muscle group without allowing sufficient time for healing. Youth are still growing, which makes their bodies more susceptible to this kind of injury and increases the long term risks of this type of injury as well. Here are some important tips to prevent repetitive sports injuries in youth.

Stretching & mobility
As kids are growing quickly, appropriate stretching exercises should be used regularly to keep muscles limber and ready for athletic use. Warm up and cool down exercises are also extremely important before a young athlete engages in competitive sport. These will help to prevent muscle pulls and strains, and will reduce the risk for the development of a repetitive injury.

Cross training
Many young athletes today are encouraged to specialize in one sport or activity. However, this can cause stress on certain muscle groups while leaving others less developed. Cross training is a great way to reduce the tax that the repetitive motions of your primary sport take on your body. Doing other athletic activities helps to develop different muscle groups and new skill sets while avoiding the stress of repeated activities.

Education and mechanics
Whether a young person is playing their sport, doing weight training, or some cross-training activity, using proper mechanics is extremely important. Make sure your child’s coaches and trainers are actively educating on the right way to complete a drill or exercise. Many repetitive sports injuries originate from using improper form. Make sure your child is properly sized for any equipment they might need, as poorly fitting equipment could also cause undue stress on the body.

Diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition is an important factor to keeping a young athlete healthy. First and foremost, staying hydrated with plenty of clear fluids is extremely important to preventing injury. Eating healthy, balanced meals is also critical to muscle development and keeping up a growing child’s energy.

Know when to stop
Competitive sports often encourage a ‘play through the pain’ attitude. There are bound to be bumps and bruises from being so physically active, but symptoms like pain, swelling, or stiffness should be taken seriously. While it is easy to look towards the next game or practice, it is important to keep the long term health of your child in mind. There is no shame in taking a rest to let a nagging injury heal properly.

If a young athlete is struggling with an injury, a physical therapist can help. They will know the best treatments or exercises to speed up recovery and prevent future re-injury. This is especially important with repetitive sports injuries, which can persist for a long time if left untreated.