Education

Kids and Sports Injuries: Fast Growth Spurs Tendon, Ligament Issues

When yourson or daughter goes through what is commonly called a “growthspurt,” he or she could be more vulnerable to sports injuries ifprecautions are not taken. That’s because a child’s bone growth usuallyoutpaces similar development in the ligaments and tendons that serve asconnective tissues for the joints.

Ligamentsand tendons take longer “so our bones grow longer, but the rubber bands thatare stuck to it, the muscles and tendons, get tighter until they catch up,”explains Roger Saldana, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & SportsMedicine Institute.

Kids activein sports are vulnerable to injuries — particularly those with a focus on oneactivity, such as gymnastics, without proper training.

During growth spurts, “growth plates” develop. These are areas of new bone growth in children and teens made up of cartilage, the rubbery material most obviously found in the nose. Overuse injuries, also known as “repetitive stress injuries” can affect the growth plate in kids and teens. “This combined with the tightness can cause growth plate injuries or other injuries associated with rapid growth,” said Dr. Saldana.

Younggymnasts are especially vulnerable to growth plate injuries to the wrist fromhandstands, cartwheels, tumbling and landing hard on their arms. They’re spinesare also at risk.

“Gymnastswho are doing a lot of extensions to their back can hurt areas of growth intheir spine,” said Dr. Saldana.

In track andfield athletes, the knees are especially vulnerable.

“Athletesdoing a lot of running or jumping can hurt cartilage areas in their knees andcause pain in the front of their knees,” Dr. Saldana said. “So. we see somesports are causing a bit more than others depending on the patient’s age andhow long they’re doing the sport.”

Osgood-Schlatterdisease affects children going through growth spurts. Kids who regularly runand jump are most at risk They experience pain at the front of the knee frominflammation of the growth plate at the upper end of the shinbone. “We see moreOsgood-Schlatter disease in boys than girls, especially in boys that playbasketball or run track,” Saldana said.

Injuryprevention is becoming a more vital part of sports medicine, Saldana said.Neuromuscular training can help improve functionality when jumping and landingto help minimize injuries. Neuromuscular training focuses on skill-relatedfitness, such as agility, reaction time, coordination, power, speed andbalance. Such programs can also maximize neural development during adolescence.

“We alsoknow, at least anecdotally, that maintaining flexibility decreases theincidence and at least improves the symptoms from things like runner’s knee andOsgood-Schlatter’s,” said Dr. Saldana.

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