It is time for us to get out from behind our TV and computer screens and start moving our bodies again! As our communities start to return to normalcy, we all need to increase our daily activities as exercise is very good for both physical and mental health. It is recommended that to aim for 60 minutes of activity on most days. However, since most of us have been sitting around a lot over the past year, it is important to return to this activity goal in a safe manner. It will be especially important to return in a safe manner for young athletes getting back to the sports that were left so abruptly in 2020.

As young athletes return to more physical activity, it is important to recognize that there is risk for injury if too much exercise is done too soon. These injuries are of concern as they often require long periods of rehabilitation to get back to full health. Stress injuries are the most common; these are known as shin splints and stress fractures. They are usually found in the lower leg or foot and seen in those who participate in running sports. There are other types of overuse injuries that include pain in hips, knees and ankles and again are seen in those who participate in running sports, but those who play sports such as hockey, lacrosse and football are at risk too. These injuries are mostly caused by overtraining.

So, what can be done to prevent overuse injuries as we all get up and move more? 

Recognizing that your child is at risk for overuse injury is the first step. An athlete can then decrease his or her risk by following a few simple steps.

  1. Make sure that equipment is adequate—notably that running shoes are well-fitting-and perhaps add an insert for proper alignment and stability.
  2. Add a muscle strengthening program into the workout routine.
  3. Improve flexibility. Cross-training is important to relieve stress on overused muscles and joints.

When beginning training for a running sport, we often see overuse injuries early in the season.  This is mostly due to the rapid increase in activity after a long period of inactivity, training errors and errors in technique. It is recommended to pace yourself, cross-train and use a common-sense training schedule (example: have a running calendar that increases in small increments, is consistent and avoids running on consecutive days). You should be pain free while training.

If your child is starting to suffer pain, slow down training and rest. Maybe add more cross-training at this point (example: add swimming instead of impact activities such as running or jumping). If pain is worsening, it is important to make an appointment to see your provider for further evaluation.

We encourage you to have fun out there. Be smart, consistent, eat well and keep moving!

This blog was written by Marcie Pearson, Physician Assistant.