Year round sports lead to overuse injuries

June 30, 2010 8:58:17 AM PDT
Summer can mean a break from school, but it doesn't always mean a break from sports. In fact, a growing number of kids are involved in year round sports, which could lead to what's known as "overuse injuries."

When children play the same sport year round, they are using the same muscles year round, which can lead to muscle fatigue and injury in young athletes.

High school pitcher Thomas DeCapua is reaching for a hot fast ball, but it may have been his curve ball that led to chronic elbow tendinitis for this seventeen year old pictcher.

"I would take off a month in the summer a month and feel better, then pitch again, and would hurt. Then I would take off a couple weeks and would feel better then I would pitch and would hurt again, " said Decapua.

Finally, he threw one pitch and something snapped. He had broken his left elbow, which was found in an x-ray. Thomas's fracture happened because he played with the pain of tendinitis.

Dr. Jaspreet Sekhon, of Beth Israel Medical Center, says baseball is the most common sport for kids' overuse injuries, especially in the elbow and shoulder. Basketball and volleyball can hurt the knees.

"Pain is the indicator that your body is telling you that something is wrong and to stop," said Dr. Sekhon.

Teenage muscles are often stronger than their bones. They can pull so hard that the bones just break. For DeCapua, x-rays from before and after show his bones healed in six weeks, with rest and physical therapy.

Physical therapy is generally part of the treatment for overuse injuries, but prevention is the key.

It's the job of parents and coaches to communicate with kids and learn to observe the early signs of injury.

DeCapua learned to throw fewer pitches per game.

"I used to throw in the hundreds [and now] I try to keep it in the 70s-80s," he said.

DeCapua also stretches his arm muscles before throwing.

Children should learn to hold off on learning a curve or a breaking ball until after the age of 14 or 15.

Dr.Sekhon reassures parents by telling them that taking injured children out of competition to prevent serious injury will not impact their long term careers. He says to keep the big picture in mind.