Conditions + Treatments

Overuse Injuries in Children

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"Warming up is, I think, one of the most important thing--and stretching is incredibly important, as are giving a day of rest and cross-training. If I could say nothing else, cross-training is probably an athlete's best way to prevent injury."

Yi-Meng Yen, MD, PhD, orthopedic surgeon, Boston Children's Hospital

If your child or teen has been diagnosed with an overuse injury, we at Children’s Hospital Boston know that he’s experiencing discomfort, as well as some disappointment at the disruption of his sports training. We’ll approach your child’s treatment with sensitivity and support. We want to get your child back to normal life, and back into the game safely.

About overuse injuries

As more and more kids play recreational and organized sports, there’s been a rise in the number of overuse injuries seen among children and adolescents. And while it’s still unusual for kids under the age of 8 to develop an overuse injury, the age for team sports and team sports training continues to get younger.

  • Overuse injuries are sports-related microtraumas that result from repetitively using the same parts of the body, usually by overtraining.
  • A microtrauma is a small injury that can occur to bone, muscle, tendon or ligament. Examples are microtears to muscle fibers, stress to the tendon or bruising of the bone.
  • Pain and/or inflammation of the affected area can be symptoms of an overuse injury.

Some overuse injuries are more common in children because of the softness of their growing bones and the tightness of their ligaments and tendons during growth spurts.

Untreated overuse injuries can lead to stress fractures—weak spots or small cracks in the bone.

Many injuries can be prevented with:

  • proper conditioning and training (especially cross-training)
  • sport-appropriate protective gear
  • sport-appropriate equipment

Overuse injuries can heal quickly in children, but they require complete rest of the injured area while it heals.

Children’s Hospital Boston’s approach to overuse injuries

You can have peace of mind knowing that the team in Children’s Orthopedic Center has treated thousands of children, adolescents, adults and professional athletes with injuries ranging from the minor to the highly complex. We can provide your child with expert diagnosis, treatment and care—as well as the benefits of some of the most advanced clinical and scientific research in the world.

Children’s orthopedic specialists provide comprehensive assessment, treatment and follow-up care to children, adolescents and young adults who have sports-related orthopedic injuries. Our skilled orthopedists and sports medicine experts work with physical therapy staff to develop long-term treatment and activity plans. Our team has also developed innovative evaluation programs and effective injury prevention programs and strategies.

Children’s has provided care to thousands of young athletes and is the health care choice of world-renowned dancers and professional athletes. We are the official orthopedic caregivers for the Boston Ballet and the internationally famous Boston Marathon.

Our orthopedic team includes 24 orthopedic surgeons, 10 primary care sports medicine specialists, two podiatrists, a nutritionist, a sports psychologist, eight physician assistants, 14 nurses and four certified athletic trainers. We see hundreds of patients every week at locations in Boston, Lexington, Weymouth, Peabody and Waltham. Our surgeons perform an average of 5,000 procedures each year.

Children’s Orthopedic Center: Ranked with the highest

As one of the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary programs, Children’s Orthopedic Center is the nation’s largest and most experienced pediatric orthopedic surgery center, performing more than 6,000 surgical procedures each year. Our program—consistently ranked among the top three in the nation by Orthopedic Center U.S.News & World Report—is the preeminent care center for children and young adults with congenital, neuromuscular, developmental and post-traumatic musculoskeletal problems.


Overuse injuries: Reviewed by Yi-Meng Yen, MD, PhD
© Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2012

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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