Preventing Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes

July 31, 2018

Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, sports medicine physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and immediate past president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, moderated an important webinar regarding new guidelines for youth preseason practices and school sports.  “Overuse injuries in children can have a lifetime effect on their game and quality of life,” said Dr. Bush-Joseph. “As more athletes under the age of 12 focus on just one sport and year-round training, coaches, parents and athletes need to encourage youth to think about participating in a variety of activities to prevent injuries. While sports participation has many benefits, including the development of strong bones and muscles, children who do specialize are often more likely to develop overuse injuries because of their repetitive movements, are stressed and may even consider quitting a sport and losing the benefits,” added Dr. Bush-Joseph.

Information presented in the webinar includes:

  • An estimated 27 million U.S. youths between the ages of 6 and 18 participate in team sports, and 60 million participate in some form of organized athletics.
  • A case control study of 1,206 seven- to eighteen-year-olds demonstrated that over the course of three years, picking a main sport to focus on was an independent risk factor for injury even after adjustment for age and hours per week in total sports activity.
  • In youth baseball, pitching more than 100 innings per year resulted in a 3.5-fold increase in injury risk that resulted in time lost from competition in the 9- to 14-year-old age group.
  • Similarly, studies have shown that the incidence of elbow pain in youth baseball players is between 20 and 30 percent for 8- to 12-year-olds, approximately 45 percent for 13- to 14-year-olds, and over 50 percent for high school, college, and professional athletes.
  • One retrospective study evaluating women gymnasts demonstrated that there were similar rates of acute and overuse injuries in 96 competitive gymnasts and the majority of injuries were lower extremity soft tissue injuries.
  • By evaluating emergency room data from 1990 to 2014, a study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the annual injury rate for young soccer players jumped by 111 percent in the 24-year period. Sprains and strains were most common followed by fractures and soft tissue injuries. More than 70 percent of those injuries were in older children, ages 12 to 17. In addition, this age group was more than three times as likely to be injured than younger players.

About Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph

Long involved in the care of high school, collegiate, and recreational athletes, Dr. Bush-Joseph is a team physician for the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball Club and Associate Team Physician for the Chicago Bulls. Academically, Dr. Bush-Joseph is nationally renown with leadership roles in several national orthopedic societies and president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. He has authored over 140 published manuscripts and book chapters.