How to Avoid Overuse Injuries in Youth Sports

About 35 to 45 million children play organized sports each year in the US. More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries. This makes many parents wonder, “How can my young athlete train at a high level without putting their body at risk?”

Not all sports injuries are readily preventable, but overuse injuries certainly are. Muscle strain, tendonitis, and other overuse injuries comprise nearly half of all sports injuries in middle and high school students. To help keep your child injury-free, encourage them to follow these tips.

Have Kids Get a Sports Physical Each Season

Student-athletes are highly encouraged to receive a physical exam from their medical provider before at the start of each sports season. This gives the doctor a chance to screen for potential risk factors and identify any lingering injuries from the prior season that may need attention.

Young Athletes Should Warm Up & Stretch

Every practice and game should start with a warm-up. This should last five to 10 minutes and include a mix of gentle cardiovascular exercises and dynamic stretches.

Warming up increases the heart rate, warms the muscles, and stretches connective tissues to reduce the risk of injury during physical activity.

Kids Playing Sports Should Do Cool Down Activities

The time immediately after playing sports is also critical. This is when the body should cool down to return the heart rate and muscles to their resting state. A five to 10 minute cool-down consisting of low-intensity cardiovascular exercise and static stretches can reduce muscle soreness and help the body recover.

Youth Athletes Need Time to Rest & Recover

Getting adequate rest is critical for the body to heal and recover after strenuous physical activity. Young athletes should take at least one or two days off from organized sports per week. Along with this, athletes should take time off between seasons to let the body fully recover. Note that taking time off doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in front of a screen playing video games for hours at a time.

Athletes can and are encouraged to participate in what’s called active recovery. Active recovery involves low impact activities such as yoga or walking.

For younger athletes, this could mean riding a bike or playing tag with friends. These low impact activities allow the body to rest while still getting in a healthy amount of exercise. 

How Parents Can Watch For Early Warning Signs of Overuse Injuries

Children and teens are often unaware they are developing an overuse injury because it feels a lot like a growth spurt.

Be sure to ask your child if they experience any pain, fatigue, or discomfort that lingers for more than a few days after an intense practice.

These could be signs that a more serious problem is developing under the surface. To prevent a full-blown overuse injury, encourage your child to take time off or cross-train.

Youth Athletes Should Eat a Healthy Diet

The best compliment to physical activity is a healthy diet consisting of whole grain, lean meat, protein, low-fat dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Keeping your body properly fueled and hydrated helps prevent injury whereas a poor diet that is high in sugar, salt, fat, and refined flour, can contribute to muscle weakness and low endurance causing an increased risk of injury. Adequate hydration supports your muscles and helps them recover, so encourage your kids to drink water before, during, and after participating in youth sports.

Avoid Specializing Kids in Sports at an Early Age

Athletes who specialize in a single sport at an early age are up to 90% more likely to be injured than their multi-sport peers. Year-round training in a single sport is also likely to cause youth sports burnout and make your child lose motivation and desire to play their favorite sport. 

Try Something New in Kids Sports Instead

In order to avoid burnout, encourage your kids to try something new while they’re still at a young age! A diversified sporting experience gives children a chance to decide what they like best. Plus, multi-sport participation has been shown to be more effective at developing elite-level athletes as it helps develop their overall athletic ability versus specialized movements.

Multi-sport leagues such as i9 Sports®® allow kids to explore multiple sports within the same organization, making sports fun for kids and convenient for parents. 

Sign Up Your Child for Youth Sports

At i9 Sports®®, we’re committed to providing safe, fun youth athletic programs.

We want kids to love their time playing on a team and make the most of their experience as young athletes. Whether your child is interested in flag football, soccer, basketball, baseball, Lacrosse, or volleyball, we’re the youth sports league for you! To learn more about what we offer, please browse our programs or contact your local i9 Sports® office today.

Young boy in an i9 Sports soccer jersey at soccer practice kicking a soccer ball.