Children vs adult injuries
I’m Getting Too Old for This!
Not a promising statistic – according to Sports Medicine Australia, up to 70% of runners suffer an injury each year. Age is a known contributor to injury risk, and significantly influences the types of injuries that runners are likely to suffer. Whilst children often seem like invincible energiser bunnies, they too can be sidelined due to injury, particularly if they’re doing high volumes of training.
In general, children will recover more quickly from injuries, and the prolonged recovery time is a common frustration for older runners. However, this does not mean that the injuries children suffer are any less damaging. In fact, if poorly treated, serious childhood injuries can significantly impact their growth and development, and taint their passion for running for months or even years to come.
Efficient and injury-free running relies on a synergy between the muscles, ligaments, tendons and ligaments. Injury commonly targets the weakest link in this chain, which differs for adults compared to children, and is influenced by other factors including running history, body composition, biomechanics and running gait.
Bone growth occurs throughout childhood and adolescence. During development the growth plate is weakened, and thus prone to injury. Children are at higher risk of such injuries for approximately 6-12 months within a 3-4 year window, with susceptibility varying depending on the bone/region in question. Growth plate injuries (Apophysitis) are more common in active children. These growth-related injuries resolve with time, but treatment should be undertaken to reduce pain and manage the injury to ensure it doesn’t cause permanent damage. Common examples of Apophysitis injuries include:
- Sever’s Disease (Posterior Calcaneus – Achilles Tendon)
- Osgood-Schlatter Disease (Tibial Tuberosity – Patella Tendon)
- Sinding-Larsen-Johansson Syndrome (Patella – Patella Tendon)
Activity modification and load management are important when treating Apophysitis injuries. Treatment should also address contributing factors and biomechanical issues to assist in pain and symptom relief. For example, Sever’s can be successfully managed with many strategies including regular icing and the addition of heel lifts to all shoes to reduce strain on the Achilles tendon and posterior heel.
The soft tissue structures in children are much more pliable and more resistant to injury. Therefore, muscle and tendon injuries are much less common. Young bones are also more flexible and less brittle, so they too are more resistant to injuries, and stress fractures in particular are unusual injuries for children. Fractures are not uncommon, but in most cases they result from acute trauma. As with adults, unusual injuries such as cancerous tumors and systemic conditions are not out of the question – hence it is always important to seek professional advice.
Be aware that active children are likely to suffer an injury at some point, whether it be due to training or a traumatic event. Even though their pain may be inconsistent, or their symptoms may be different to those experienced by adults, their injuries should not be ignored.
Serious injury can lead be detrimental to their long-term health and well-being, so they should be given the same treatment opportunities as adults to ensure their injuries are diagnosed and managed as efficiently as possible. A good pair of correctly fitted running shoes will certainly help avoid injury – read the article why here.
If your children are experiencing any pain or discomfort whilst running or in their day to day active lifestyles, it is time to make an appointment at intraining Running Injury Clinic to see one of our podiatrists or physiotherapists. If you have private health cover, you are able to claim on the spot with minimal out of pocket expense. Don’t ignore the problem, get it seen to sooner rather than later.