When helping children and young people with sports injuries, it's important to remember that children are not just little adults, and this is something that is often forgotten or overlooked. A child’s anatomy, physiology and psychology are different, and these differences are important in sports medicine and sports injuries, in the assessment, diganosis, treatment, rehabilitation and prevention of sports injuries in children and young people.
One of the main differences is that children and young people usually have very different sports injuries compared to adults, even if they seem to happen in the same way and appear to be the same as adult sports injuries. In order to identify and manage these injuries and disorders, we need a good knowledge of the anatomy and normal development of the growing body and how it adapts and copes with load. This must include not only bone, muscle, ligament and tendon, but also the physiology and psychology, as well as the variance in the rate and timing of growth and development. This will not happen at the same time or at the same rate for any 2 individuals!
There are many different benefits and complications of growth and development, such as disproportionate growth, longer levers which can cause decreased awareness & control, and changes in strength and power, all of which can make a junior or adolescent athlete more vulnerable to sports injuries.
Like most sports injuries, rest by itself is usually not the whole solution. All the differences we see in children and young people also mean that the rehabilitation of sports injuries in youth or junior athletes needs to be different as well. Depending on the actual sports injury, the age and experience of the young athlete, the amount and type of exercise they can tolerate is very different. They also need to learn to control their developing body which is growing and changing size & shape all the time. So strength training is usually less important than it would be for an adult, with stability, balance and awareness being much more important.
It is also important to remember that a simple sports injury can cause serious disruption to the normal growth and development of a child or young person, potentially causing lifelong disability or deformity. This is not an exaggeration meant to cause alarm, this unfortunately does happen, and these injuries are very easy to overlook and dismiss as just a minor injury or simple bump. And as scary as it sounds, many serious illnesses can easily get mistaken for sports injuries and go untreated for too long. Although this is very rare, it does happen, and the consequences can be devastating.
So, if you’re in any doubt, get your young athlete checked out!