Kids, Sports & Overuse Injuries

Overuse sports injuries don’t only affect weekend warriors or the young at heart. They happen to kids, too, and produce sore spots like little leaguer’s elbow and shoulder. And like adults, kids with overuse injuries also experience pain.

“Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive stresses that exceed the body’s ability to heal itself,” says Travis Hillen, MD, an MIR musculoskeletal imaging specialist.

Growth plates, the soft spots at the end of long bones that lengthen as cartilage is created, make kids susceptible to injury. An open growth plate allows a person to grow taller; a closed growth plate does not. Growth plates typically close or fuse during adolescence or young adulthood.

“An open growth plate is often the ‘weak link’ in the interaction between muscles, tendons, and bone in kids who are still growing,” says Hillen. “It’s where most overuse injuries occur in kids.

“Overuse injuries are characterized initially by pain with a specific activity/sport. The pain tends to worsen if the activity is continued to the point where a person is in constant pain even when not playing,” Hillen says. “These injuries are usually diagnosed through a medical history and physical exam and are often confirmed by an X-ray. In some cases, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be necessary to confirm the clinical diagnosis.”

Hillen says that “parents and coaches should stress age-appropriate training. Pain with common sporting activities is not normal, and kids, parents, and coaches should be aware of overuse injuries as a cause of pain.”

MIR musculoskeletal (MSK) radiologists are experts in imaging and diagnosing sports injuries. We provide radiology services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and at the Orthopedic Center.