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Overuse Injuries- Three Phases To Recovery

Posted on August 11 2023

As the competition bar continues to rise, kids are now specializing in sports year round and training like professionals despite lacking the physical maturity. However, one thing remains the same and that is the fact that growing bodies are particularly susceptible to overuse injuries, especially in growth plate areas. All sports can cause overuse injuries, but some of the most common problems come from excessive training/conditioning, running, repeated throwing/swinging/hitting.

Tennis Elbow Pain, Elbow Pain, Tennis Elbow Strap

Overuse injuries are a serious problem for several reasons. First of all, they are painful. They can also cause permanent injury to a growing body, especially when young athletes "play thru the pain." It is important for parents, coaches, and health professionals to emphasize that there is no such thing as good pain. Playing hurt can lead to further serious injury. Although a physician provides the initial diagnosis and performs the surgery, it's the therapist who works directly with the injured children on a regular basis.

Repetitive Strain Injury

Once injury has occurred, three phases of recovery exist:

Phase 1 Goal: Control pain and inflammation

1. Remove the athlete from the injury causing activity, but do not allow complete inactivity. The athlete should cross-train (avoiding usage of the injured area) to maintain fitness levels and avoid de-conditioning.

2. Use cold therapy, ice packs, focused ice wrap along with other modalities such as E-stim and ultrasound.

Phase 2 Goal: Increase or Regain R.O.M. (Range of Motion) and Strength

1. Gradually return to the sport (walk-thru only), such as only shooting foul shots (in basketball) after flexibility and muscle deficits are corrected.

Phase 3 Goal: Gradual full return to sport

1. Ensure that the athlete possesses correct form and biomechanics to prevent repeated injury. This may be postural, balance or involve the athlete's gait pattern.

2. Ensure adequate flexibility and strength prior to return to sport. Growth plates are the weakest link between bone, muscle tendons, and ligaments. These are the most common areas for injuries. Growth plates that attach to the large muscle tendons (such as the proximal tibia, the heel , elbow and pelvis) are the areas particularly at risk.