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How to Mitigate the Long Term Effects of Teen Sports Injuries

By Sinead Nolan

Physiotherapist at Life Ready Physio + Pilates Warwick

Teen sports injuries can be confusing, frustrating and can develop into long term issues if not handled appropriately. Managing these injuries amidst a busy sporting and social calendar can be overwhelming and worrisome for both the teenage athlete involved and parents and coaches looking on. We are here to help you understand why these injuries occur, when to seek help, and how to prevent future injuries.

The demands of teen sports are high, with sports often not limited to a single season. Many teens are training and competing in more than one sport or team at a time, or training heavily in one sport as they strive for success, leaving little time for recovery between sessions. 

Some of the injuries most commonly suffered by teen sports people are “overuse” injuries and repetitive loading during sports causes microtrauma to anatomic structures. With enough recovery time between sessions, the tissues remodel and adapt to the stress of training. When the demands of training exceed the ability of these structures to adapt, overuse injuries occur.

Examples of common overuse injuries include:

  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Osgood Schlatter’s disease
  • Sever’s disease
  • Others caused by the imbalance between training load and recovery time

Through careful examination and assessment, our physiotherapists will help you to understand presenting complaints and what it means for teenage sports enthusiasts.

How can teenage injuries occur?
Teenagers are susceptible to injuries for a variety of reasons, and we know that during growth spurts, teenagers are particularly at risk. Limbs change in length and mass which places increased stress on muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments and growth cartilage. Strength developments needed to deal with these changes may not happen quickly enough during a rapid growth spurt, leaving an imbalance in growth and strength. 

When we add a training and recovery imbalance into this equation, we create an environment with high risk for overuse injury. The risk can be further increased by other factors such as prior overuse injury, inadequate conditioning and alignment abnormalities.

How physiotherapy can help
The real problem arises when these injuries are left undealt with, allowed to progress and worsen as the athlete perseveres and struggles through training. We must implement a load management strategy early in the injury progression to prevent long term damage and to avoid surgical intervention.

A difficult aspect of these injuries can be knowing when to seek professional advice. Teen athletes often avoid seeking help for fear of being told to stop their sport altogether. However, if these injuries are addressed early, often a complete rest can be avoided. A period of modified activity will be required to alleviate tissue load and allow healing to commence.

Early intervention and treatment can be the key to avoiding long term issues and surgery. By tackling the overload issue early, often a simple load management program can be enough to offset further damage.

It is vital to also address the underlying factors which predispose the teen to the injury. Physiotherapists guide clients through a load management protocol followed by a rehabilitation program, involving the necessary strengthening and biomechanical retraining necessary to prevent recurrence of your injury.

Our physiotherapists will develop a plan specific to our clients and their sport, aimed at returning them to their very best. Following the initial period of modified activity, we will work with you while we gradually guide your return to full participation, carefully monitoring how your body responds and we’ll support you on the path towards your full recovery.

If you’re beginning to think physio for teens may be helpful to you or someone close to you, book an appointment and let our physiotherapists take the stress out of teen sports injuries!

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