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Tips for preventing exercise injuries

Overuse is a major reason for injuries, but there are other factors, too, experts say. Here are some prevention tips:

Don’t overuse your arm. Across a broad spectrum of sports, “Usually, you find the same theme in place, and that’s an overuse type of mechanism,” says Brian Hagen, PhD, DPT, a sports medicine physical therapist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Not only should adults know their limits, but parents need to protect children from too much wear and tear. Overuse injuries in children and teens have soared now that many play a sport year-round, not just for a season, Hagen says. To make matters worse, many young athletes play in multiple leagues for the same sport, whether it’s baseball, soccer, or another activity. “They may play Monday night for one coach and Tuesday night for another coach,” he says.

“What we’re seeing subsequently is a lot of overuse injuries much earlier on in these kids,” he says. “They’re never giving themselves an off-season or a chance to recover or to train properly.” Hagen says that he has treated children as young as age 12 for shoulder and elbow overuse injuries, for example, from throwing balls too often.

Parents would be wise to monitor their children’s sports, according to both experts. “There are very specific pitch counts in Little League, and parents and children should be aware of those and stick within the parameters that are outlined,” Doperak says.

Adults and children should stop exercising or playing a sport when pain strikes, experts say. Continuing to exercise can damage more muscle and connective tissue and slow recovery. In contrast, resting the injured part aids healing.

Often, children and teens won’t complain about pain because they don’t want to sit on the bench, according to Hagen. But if a parent notices warning signs in a young athlete, such as pain, limping, rubbing the knee, or reluctance to do other activities after playing a sport, check in with the child’s doctor, Hagen says.

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