In today’s competitive sporting environment, children are being placed under increasing pressure to excel at their sport. Schools and clubs (not to mention parents) invest a lot of time and money developing their children into athletes, and it is quite common for youngsters to be exercising in excess of 20 hours per week!
Although exercise at an early age has numerous health benefits, it also involves the risk of injury, and in children, unique risk factors means unique injuries…
Due to the structure of growing bones, injuries in children differ from those of their adult counterparts. For example, due to the “elastic” nature of long bones in children, these bones tend to “bend” and split rather than break, resulting in what is known as a Greenstick fracture (see above). The end-plates of long bones (where the growth occurs) are susceptible to “shifting” under large loads or fractures, which given their location, often affects the overall growth of these bones.
Where an adult might develop a tendon problem with overuse, children are more likely to develop a traction apophysitis, whereby the bony attachment point of the tendon is “pulled’ away from the bone.
This usually occurs at the attachment site of large, powerful muscles such as: the elbow (Panner’s Lesion), the Hip, the knee (Osgood-Schlatter’s Lesion and Sinding-Larsen-Johansson Lesion) and the Ankle (Sever’s Lesion).
These injuries are usually due to the repetitive nature of some of the sports that children play (think about how many times a young, fast pitcher, will practice his throwing action) leading to repetitive stress of specific tissues.
We commonly see shoulder and elbow overuse injuries in throwing sports (cricket, baseball, water polo etc), stress fractures of the spine (e.g. tennis, athletics) and stress fractures of the lower legs (runners and dancers).
Faulty technique, lack of adequate recovery, poor flexibility and muscle weakness are some of the most common causes of these injuries and they can be prevented to a large extent. This highlights the need for Sports Injury Screening at schools, as it is often during such testing at schools and clubs that we have been able to identify and correct problems, before they become injuries…