( August 2019) Summer break is over, kids are back in school and fall sports are in full swing from elementary to high school. With more and more young athletes under 12 focusing on just one sport and training year-round, we’ve seen a growing number of our younger patients with what’s called a “one sport injury” caused by repetitive movements. The condition is called apophysitis.
What Causes the One Sport Injury?
The apophysis is a growth plate that provides an attachment site for a muscle to attach to bone via a tendon. Apophysitis occurs due to repetitive or chronic traction at either the origin or insertion site. This is because the growth cartilage present in this younger age group is the weak link in the muscle-tendon unit and is prone to injury. Continuous stress can lead to injury with pain and swelling.
The knee is the most commonly seen site of apophysitis where the patellar tendon attaches to the upper tibia. Other common sites are the Achilles tendon at the heel, the lower part of the kneecap, the outer side of the foot), the inner elbow (Little League elbow), and shoulder (Little League shoulder). Runners, sprinters, and soccer players are especially prone to locations in the pelvis causing hip or groin pain.
Among athletes between the ages of 5 to 14, overuse injuries impact:
- 27% of football players
- 25% of baseball players
- 22% of soccer players
- 15% of basketball players
- 12% of softball players *
- *American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
How Can We Treat Overuse Injuries?
We treat all types of apophysitis with a period of rest, ice, activity modification, and potentially physical therapy depending on the condition severity. Depending on the location, a variety of straps, braces, and orthotics can aid in providing comfort, protection and stabilization of the involved site. Healing time varies from a few days to weeks or months depending on a patient’s willingness to rest and avoid contributing activities.
What Parents and Coaches Can Do
- Have a pre-season wellness check to determine any health concerns that could lead to injury
- Warm-up and cool-down before and after athletic activities
- Use correct sport specific equipment
- Train in proper techniques like throwing or running
- Hydrate! Drinking plenty of water maintains health and minimizes cramps
- Play different positions or sports throughout the year to minimize overuse injury risk
- Don’t play with pain – allow time to rest and heal
Keeping those growing bones, joints and muscles healthy ensure the ultimate goal: a healthy lifetime love of sports, too.
Dr. Terral received his MD from Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans, followed by residency in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS. He is Board Certified and Fellowship Trained in numerous specialties including trauma-related musculoskeletal injuries and joint reconstruction.