Overuse Injuries

What are Overuse Injuries?

There are essentially two types of injuries: acute injuries and overuse injuries.

Acute injuries are usually the result of a single, traumatic event (macro-trauma). (sportsmed.org)

Common examples of acute injuries include
  • wrist fractures
  • ankle sprains
  • shoulder dislocations
  • hamstring muscle strain

An overuse injury, on the other hand, is damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal.
Overuse injuries are more subtle and usually occur over time. They are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones and joints.
Common examples of overuse injuries include:
  • tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis),
  • swimmer’s shoulder (rotator cuff tendinitis and impingement),
  • Little League elbow
  • runner’s knee
  • jumper’s knee (infrapatellar tendinitis)
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • shin splints

Fast Facts
  • Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students. Safe Kids USA Campaign Web site 2009
  • Twenty percent of children ages 8 to 12 and 45 percent of those ages 13 to 14 will have arm pain during a single youth baseball season. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2009
  • Since 2000 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players. Preserving the Future of Sport: From Prevention to Treatment of Youth Overuse Sports Injuries. AOSSM 2009 Annual Meeting Pre-Conference Program. Keystone, Colorado 
  • Every year, more than 3.5 million children aged 14 years and younger are treated for sports injuries.

Factors and Causes of Overuse Injuries

  • Training errors
  • Improper technique
  • Beginning a sport or doing too much too soon
  • Not allowing your body adequate time to recover
  • Doing too much of one activity over time (not cross  training)




  • Use proper gear and form[i]
  • Pace yourself
  • Gradually increase your activity level
  • Cross train or mix up your workout routine: build variety into your fitness program.
  • Listen to your body[ii]
  • A special note for younger athletes from healthychildren.org: Athletes should avoid specializing in one sport before they reach puberty. Child "superstars" are often injured or burned out prior to college. Children should be encouraged to try a variety of sports. And athletes should take a combined 2 to 3 months off per year from a specific sport (may be divided throughout the year [that is, 1 out of every 6 months off ]).


  • muscle aches and soreness
  • swelling
  • decreased strength or speed
  • pain with exercise or activity

  From Healthychildren.org the following are the 4 stages of overuse injuries:
  1. Pain in the affected area after physical activity
  2. Pain during physical activity, not restricting performance
  3. Pain during physical activity, restricting performance
  4. Chronic, persistent pain even at rest


   Overuse injuries are commonly treated by the following methods:
  • Rest. You need to take time off from the activity that caused the overuse injury. This lets your body repair and heal.
  • Ice. Put ice on the injured area for 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off. You may use the ice as many times per day as you want. Just make sure to not leave the ice on for longer than 30 minutes and don’t put the ice directly on the skin. Be sure to let your body warm back up to room temperature before icing again. Use ice after every practice, game, or physical therapy session.
  • Physical therapy. Your healthcare provider may send you to a physical therapist. Often you will do some gentle stretching and some strengthening exercises. You may also have ultrasound treatments that provide deep heat to injured tissues and help them heal faster.
  • Medicine. Take an anti-inflammatory medicine to help with pain and inflammation. Adults aged 65 years and older should not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine for more than 7 days without their healthcare provider's approval. If the pain is severe, you may need a cortisone shot in the affected area.

Additional Resources

Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.com

Stop Sports Injuries http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/

Boston's Children's Hospital

Andrews Institute

In The News

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The changing landscape of youth sports injuries

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Let children guide extracurricular choices