Nov 7, 2022



By Michael O’Boyle 

Playing sport from a young age is a great way to promote physical and mental well-being. Sports participation is an excellent way to develop physical fitness, coordination, and encourage the lifelong habit of exercise. The sports participation rates within Northern Ireland are continuously growing, with some children participating in sports up to 7 nights per week.

From a healthcare perspective it is great to see children active. However, despite the benefits of sport, too much activity can lead to injury.

What injuries are common in young athletes?

The most common injury seen in young athletes is overuse injuries. A lot of the time these are labelled as “growing pains” but that does not mean they should be ignored. These injuries can be very painful and debilitating. Overuse injuries will not only effect performance, but they will also reduce enjoyment of sport because of pain. If left untreated overuse injuries can progress into more sever injury.

What causes Overuse Injuries?

Overuse injuries occur when the physical load from high intensity sports participation is higher than the recovery time. During our preteen and teen years the body is rapidly growing, and the musculoskeletal system is continuously developing.  During the ages of 13-15 for girls and 15-17 for boys the bones of the skeleton are growing rapidly. The rapid lengthening of the bones results in increased muscle tightness and tension. An accumulation of increased muscle tension and an overload of high intensity repetitive exercise can cause the area of muscle attachments to become inflamed and painful.

What are the most common areas for overuse injuries in young athletes are?

  • Hips
  • Groin
  • Knee
  • Heel

What to look out for?

Young athletes are at most risk of an overuse injury during a period called “Peak Height Velocity” (PHV). This is the period of rapid growth, known more commonly as a growth spurt. Therefore, it is important you monitor your child’s growth. There are also formulas online where you can estimate the time of a child PHV. So here are the four key things to look out for:

  • A rapid increase in growth (changes in shoe size is a good indicator)
  • Sport Related Pain (pain is often present toward the end and after high intensity exercise. In more sever cases pain can be present at the start of exercise)
  • Pain on Everyday Activities (In more sever cases some everyday activities such as going up or down stairs can cause pain)
  • A Change in Sport Performance (young athlete’s can be apprehensive about discussing pain in case they have to miss sport. However, it is important to look out for changes in movement or any signs that your child may be struggling during exercise)

What can you do to help?

There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the effects of overuse injuries within young athletes. The key tips are:

  • Slightly Reduce Activity Levels During PHV
  • Ensure Your Child has Adequate Recovery Time from High Intensity Exercise
  • Perform Regular Stretching
  • Perform Strength Training
  • Apply Ice to Painful Areas Post Exercise
  • Seek Advice from a Physiotherapist


Sport is extremely important to young athletes and we at Gav Noble Physiotherapy are passionate about keeping our athletes engaged in sport, pain free and performing at their optimal potential. If you have any queries or concerns about your son/daughter please do not hesitate to contact the clinic.

If you’re not sure what to do next, then try our FREE discover session. Find out more about it HERE.

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