Across the board, I encourage my patients and their families to exercise regularly and participate in sports however they can. Competitive sports for children and young adults can serve as both a great learning experience, and an opportunity to make new friends. Sports also help kids to create building blocks for success later in life, and are a fun way to exercise among peers.
However, a recent study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that “excessive exposure to competitive sports activities during youth was associated with low back pain and symptoms in the lower extremities.” While strains and sports-related injuries are common among young athletes, the study found that wear-and-tear caused by improper motions or posture can have a long-term effect on athletes into adulthood.
Young athletes may be exposed to sports injuries at a young age, which, if improperly treated, can lead to further pain throughout their lives. Common injuries include muscle strains, stingers, and disc injuries.
Young athletes can also suffer overuse that lead to injuries as they continue to train. Specialization in sports at a young age can reduce range of motion in joints and create an imbalance in muscle strength. Intense or repetitive training, especially over several years, can exhaust muscles and lead to more pain down the road. Bad posture or improper form during sports or any exercise can affect young athletes well into adulthood. Even small habits, such as ill-fitting footwear and poor technique, can add up and have long-term effects as well.
There are, of course, a number of measures that children, parents, and coaches can take in order to avoid injury. Playing multiple sports, rather than just one, can help improve range of motion and work multiple muscle groups as they develop. It is also important for children to have a few months off, rather than playing sports all year round, as their bodies are still growing.
If your child is injured or reports pain after practice, be sure to speak to a doctor about it as soon as possible so it can be treated properly. Remember to take precautions to ensure your child’s safety and good spine health as they grow.