No matter how long we live, few of us will ever be more active in life than we were when we were children. With no responsibilities to tie them down, and enough energy to take out two fully-grown adults, children have the freedom to run rampant for the majority of their early years.
During those years of running, jumping, and climbing, it is inevitable that they will sustain a few injuries. In this blog, we’re going to look at some of the most common physical injuries sustained by children. While you can’t protect them from every injury, recognising the signs and symptoms of these will help you prevent some of the most common ones.
Jumper’s knee, also known as Patellar tendinitis, describes a pain in the lower half of the kneecap. It is a type of overuse injury that occurs as a result of repeatedly bending the knees quickly. This stretches the patellar tendon, tearing its fibres and leading to inflammation. Unfortunately, in young children, the patellar tendon is attached the growth plate of the kneecap, which can become irritated and cause even more pain.
Fortunately, Jumper’s knee is not a very serious condition. The longer the pain is ignored, the longer the recovery time will be, but all that is needed to address this issue is rest. Massages and hot/cold packs can be used to aid recovery or relieve pain, but ultimately the tendons need to repair themselves, which will take a few weeks.
Just like the knees, our elbows are quite susceptible to overuse injuries, both in childhood and beyond. In children, these injuries tend to stem primarily from sports related activities, particularly those that involve overhand throwing. This places a lot of stress on the still-developing elbow, which can lead to inflammation of the ligaments, plates, and cartilage in the elbow.
Medial apophysitis is one example of an overuse injury in the elbow. This is a pain on the inner bump of the elbow, and is a result of excessive tugging of the muscles in the wrist from the hand motion of throwing the ball. If the pain is located on the outside of the elbow, it could be Osteochondritis dissecans. This is when the repetitive motions have caused bone and cartilage fragments to break off and “float” in the elbow.
As with most overuse injuries, the best treatment for a worn-out elbow is to give it some time to heal. If the pain continues after a week of rest, you should take the child to see a doctor. In some cases, surgery may be required to fix the problem if it is not addressed early on, so don’t ignore the signs.
If your child is complaining of heel pain, the likelihood is that Sever’s disease is to blame. Also known as Osteochonrosis or apophysitis (similar to the two elbow injuries mentioned above), Sever’s disease is the inflammation of the heel’s growth plate. As the heels are used in almost every physical activity, it is usually a combination of running and jumping that causes this pain. Therefore, the most effective way to treat it is with rest, although insoles, stretches, and anti-inflammatory medication may also help. Sever’s disease often occurs more than once, so the best way to fight it is to prevent is with proper sports shoes.
Stress fractures are small cracks that appear in the bone. These occur when bones are suddenly but repeatedly put under a lot of stress. They are usually confined to the legs and feet, which can be put under undue stress by everything from jumping to lifting.
Stress fractures are harder for parents to prevent than other injuries, as we cannot see the bones or feel the stress they’re being put under. That being said, the majority of stress fractures occur when a new activity has been taken up, such as long distance running. So if your child is taking up a new activity, it is crucial not to overdo it in the beginning. Stress fractures can take up to two months of rest to heal, and may require a cast or brace, so prevention is the best option here.
As we have seen, many of the injuries children sustain are a result of overuse. While we want our kids to get off the computers and go outside, we have to remember that too much of anything is bad, and it’s up to us to make sure they do their activities in moderation.