Batter Up and Play it Safe: Protecting our Kids from Overuse Injuries

Batter Up and Play it Safe: Protecting our Kids from Overuse Injuries

Sunflower seeds, peanuts, some SPF and you know that baseball season has arrived! As we prepare our young athletes for the spring season, it is important that we “play it safe” to avoid injuries.

Across the United States, 3.5 million kids receive medical attention for sports-related injuries annually -- half of which are preventable.

Children and teens are at risk for overuse injuries because their growing bodies are less resilient to repetitive stress. Kids specializing in one sport for longer periods of time are even more susceptible to overuse injuries such as: sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations and minor trauma to tendons, ligaments, joints or bones. A combined three-month break per year from the same sport will help children rest and recover, though athletes should remain physically active in order to prevent deconditioning.

Building a strong fundamental skillset by conditioning properly prior to the start of the season will help prevent overuse injuries. Athletes should increase their training by 10% each week as they build up to peak performance. Consider limiting sport-specific participation to five days per week, cross train and rest at least one day per week. Also critical to maintaining a healthy body is proper stretching, warm ups and cool downs.

Signs and symptoms of overuse injuries include:

  • Pain in the affected area after activity
  • Pain during physical activity (whether or not it restricts performance)
  • Persistent pain, even at rest

Athletes are also at risk of heat stress and dehydration during exercise. Proper hydration is essential to playing it safe.

To avoid dehydration and heat stress, modify activities during times of increased heat or humidity, allow for adequate rest in the shade or cooler area, wear light-colored or lightweight clothing and be sure your athlete stays well-hydrated. Kids should have something to drink 30 minutes prior, 20 minutes during and 60 minutes after workouts and games. For activities less than one hour, drinking water is sufficient -- for activities greater than one hour, consider a sports drink.

Signs and symptoms of heat stress include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Intense thirst
  • Rapid breathing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Feeling faint
  • Skin numbness or tingling

If your child has any signs or symptoms of heat stress or overuse injuries, call your pediatrician for advice on the next best steps.

Dr. Carmela Sosa is medical director of Valley Children’s Primary Care Group. She is also a complex care pediatrician. 

This article originally appeared in the April edition of Central California Parent magazine.

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