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These types of injuries are on the rise among children

By Lisa Parro, health enews, a news service from Advocate Health Care

Summertime means t-ball, Little League and other forms of competitive baseball for many youngsters. But for kids playing at younger and younger ages competing at a high level on a year-round schedule, baseball season can result in injuries previously seen more commonly in adult athletes.

“Historically, kids did multiple activities, changing sports according to season, and it was less organized. Now the trend is kids at younger and younger ages playing one sport, year round, with no break,” says Dr. Glenn Reinhart, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “The issues in pediatric sports medicine that I see are overuse injuries and traumatic injuries.”

Dr. Reinhart, who is fellowship trained in both pediatric orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, has treated an uptick in these injuries over the past decade of his 20-year career.

Growing bones are less resilient to stress, putting children and teens at increased risk for overuse injuries. Overuse or repetitive stress injuries result from over-stressing muscles, joints, tendons and bones. Examples include tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, youth pitching elbow, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis and shin splints.

Traumatic injuries on the rise among young athletes include meniscus tears (one of the most common knee injuries, which can lead to anterior cruciate ligament surgery) and “Tommy John” elbow surgery. A study published last year found a startling increase in youth baseball players undergoing Tommy John surgery, which involves replacing a damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow with a tendon from another part of the body.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips on preventing overuse injuries:

  • Undergo a pre-participation physical evaluation from a medical provider to ensure readiness
  • Avoid specializing in one sport prior to late adolescence
  • Limit participation in a single sport to five days a week
  • Sign up for just one team and one sport per season
  • Take at least one day off per week from organized activity to recover physically and mentally
  • Take a combined three months off per year (may be divided throughout the year in one-month increments) from a single sport
  • Avoid increases in weekly training time, mileage or repetitions should be no more than 10 percent per week
  • Cross train
  • Perform drills in different ways

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