Research has shown that people who suffer a joint injury are more likely to develop osteoarthritis in that joint than people who do not suffer a joint injury. With our youth participating in sports -- and some of them competing at a high level -- more and more injuries are occurring, putting our children at risk of developing OA at relatively young ages.
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) developed the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries campaign, and several other prominent organizations are partnering in the endeavor, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Visit their information-packed website to help keep your children safe when playing sports: stopsportsinjuries.org.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a clinical report for physicians to help reduce the risk of overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. Here's a list of tips from that report:
- Encourage athletes to strive to have at least 1 to 2 days off per week from competitive athletics, sport-specific training, and competitive practice (scrimmage) to allow them to recover both physically and psychologically.
- Advise athletes that the weekly training time, number of repetitions, or total distance should not increase by more than 10% each week (eg, increase total running mileage by 2 miles if currently running a total of 20 miles per week).
- Encourage the athlete to take at least 2 to 3 months away from a specific sport during the year.
- Emphasize that the focus of sports participation should be on fun, skill acquisition, safety, and sportsmanship.
- Encourage the athlete to participate on only 1 team during a season. If the athlete is also a member of a traveling or select team, then that participation time should be incorporated into the aforementioned guidelines.
- If the athlete complains of nonspecific muscle or joint problems, fatigue, or poor academic performance, be alert for possible burnout. Questions pertaining to sport motivation may be appropriate.
- Advocate for the development of a medical advisory board for weekend athletic tournaments to educate athletes about heat or cold illness, overparticipation, associated overuse injuries, and/or burnout.
- Encourage the development of educational opportunities for athletes, parents, and coaches to provide information about appropriate nutrition and fluids, sport safety, and the avoidance of overtraining to achieve optimal performance and good health.
- Convey a special caution to parents with younger athletes who participate in multigame tournaments in short periods of time.