Studies show kids who play sports today play harder and longer than they did just 10 years ago.
Sports medicine physicians say this trend has led to skyrocketing cases of overuse injuries that are hard to diagnose and treat.
They say one reason that probably explains the rise in overuse injuries in kids is that many kids are playing only one sport year-round at an earlier age. Doctor say their bodies are showing the wear and tear
Reilly McGinnis is a 15-year-old soccer player at Emmaus High School who has dealt with a long list of overuse injuries.
"I've had achilles tendonitis, shin splints, stress fractures, two concussions and RSD [Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy]," said McGinnis. She sees sports medicine specialist Dr. Laura Dunne.
Reilly and her two sisters all play soccer. While the family loves the game, the injuries have been difficult on Reilly and her family.
"It's been hard. It broke my heart [to see Reilly injured] because I knew how passionate she was about playing and for her to not be able to do what she loves to do--it was very hard on her," said Reilly's mom, Mary McGinnis.
Dr. Dunne has been in practice for more than 10 years. She says Reilly is not the youngest patient she sees.
"I think we're seeing more and more injuries in the 10 and 11 year olds where we were seeing more in the 14-15 year olds early on.," said Dr Dunne, OAA.
She explains that overuse injuries come from repetitive motions that put stress on
on the body.
She and her colleagues treat many Lehigh Valley athletes whose injuries develop from years of training, practice and playing. Because of that, the rehabilitation from these injuries is also something that takes time.
"They didn't happen overnight. They didn't happen in one instance and they've been going on for a long time so a lot of times it's not so easy to treat. They don't get treated in a day or a week -- they do take a long time to get better," said Dr. Jill Crosson, another sports medicine physician with OAA.
Taking lengths of time off from playing is not easy for an active athlete who doesn't want to sit out. Reilly remembers how she had to watch from the bench after an injury.
"It wasn't fun. I was benched for about a year and just watching everyone else practice and get better, it was hard.”
Dr. Dunne says prevention is key for today’s young athletes who deal with more and more competition.
"You have to find that balance of working really hard at something, developing your skills but you have to give your body [time to] heal from the work that you're doing,” Dr. Dunne explains.
Another problem with young athletes: many tend to ignore pain.
If you notice your child having any kind of persistent pain, you should see a doctor.