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How Hard Should You Let Your Teenage Athlete Work Out When It Comes to Their Back Health

How Hard Should You Let Your Teenage Athlete Work Out When It Comes to Their Back Health

Over the years, youth have been engaging in competitive sports at earlier ages than ever before. With so many organized school or community-based sports programs, the opportunity for injures to occur are high. In fact, sports injuries are the second leading cause of emergency room visits for children and adolescents, according to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Each year, 3-million youth are seen in hospital emergency rooms and another 5-million are seen by a sports medicine clinic or their physician for sports-related injuries.

Overuse is the Leading Cause of Youth Sports Injuries

Most of the sports-related injuries that youth deal with are due to overuse. Normal physical activity is important to a child’s growth process, but the intense, repetitive training they are going through at such early ages can cause tissue breakdown or injury over time. Risk factors that can lead young athletes to overuse injuries include:

  • Intense, repetitive training during growth periods
  • Sport specialization at a very young age (4-7)
  • Anatomic malalignment or a pre-existing condition
  • Imbalance of strength or joint range of motion
  • Improper footwear or training gear

Your Child’s Back Health

The lower back is the most common area of back pain in athletes. However, back pain in children and adolescents is very different from adults. Adults usually deal with disc issues, while children deal with bone or muscle issues that cause their back pain. According to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the most common cause of lower back pain in young athletes is a stress fracture or bone injury. The second most common cause is a muscle strain of the lower back due to overuse.

Most back pain goes away with little treatment, such as stretching and strengthening the back and core muscles. Muscle injuries are typically treated with stretching and specialized exercises, while stress fractures usually require 2-3 months rest to allow the bones to heal. Early recognition and treatment of their injuries is critical for young athletes to get back to their sport safely and quickly. A minor injury should resolve itself in a few days, but if your child is not back to full participation without pain, they need to be seen by a doctor. Injuries left untreated can turn into chronic problems for a child as they grow older.

Taking Preventative Measures

Certain sports, such as football, gymnastics, or dance, can put your child at higher risk for back injuries. These sports make the lower back more vulnerable to overuse and quick onset of back pain. However, no matter the sport, the excessive hours youth spend intensively practicing and playing puts them at a significantly higher risk of stress fractures and other severe overuse injuries, according to a clinical study. Youth that participate in their sport for 13 or more hours a week were 70% more likely to get serious overuse injuries of the back.

A good rule of thumb is to not let your child participate in their sport for more hours than they are old. For example, if your child is 8 years old, they should spend no more than 8 hours a week practicing and playing their sport. Some other easy ways to reduce their risk of suffering from back pain are:

  • Warm up and stretch before any activity
  • Educate them on the proper form and technique for sports performance or lifting
  • Do core-strengthening exercises
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Maintain a healthy body weight

RSI Physical Medicine Can Help Your Child Stay On Top Of Their Game

If your child is suffering from back pain or you just want to make sure they are competing at their top performance level, click here or call RSI Physical Medicine at (904) 270-2673 to schedule a free consultation. We have various treatment options that are specialized to fit your child’s needs.