Children and teenagers are not mini adults. That period when a child’s body transitions into an adult’s body is a period of dramatic physical change. These changes can take place anytime from age 8 to 21! While they still get normal injuries like an adult does, we see alot of injuries that occur only during this period. This is because:
- our bone grows first and the soft tissues follow. There can often be a period where the muscles and tendons are tight as they haven’t caught up with the bones yet. This in itself can give pains.
- the pre-pubescent bone has a growth plate, which is softer bone that increases in length as we get taller. During puberty, this bone starts to harden. During this period the areas of the body where tendons attach to bones are at risk of injury as the bone is less stable, and this becomes the weakest link in the chain.
Below we have described two common injuries we see in this period. Both have frightening names but are quite straightforward once properly dealt with:
- Severs disease – this is an injury affecting the back of the heel, where the achilles tendon attaches to the bone. It can sometimes cause a little bump to appear. It usually happens in girls aged 8-10, and boys around 10-12 years (girls bones mature earlier than boys). These kids are often physically active, but their parents might notice them limping or running awkwardly. The child might say it is sore to walk on their toes.
- Osgoods Schlatters: this is an injury affecting just below the knee, where the tendon attaches to the bone. This can also cause a little bump to appear on the top of the shin bone. It occurs usually between the ages of 12-15 although it can be seen younger or older than that. This is common in kids who are active in sports involving running, jumping and twisting.
How to reduce likelihood of your child getting a growth related injury:
- If your child is very active and playing alot of sport, it is advised to reduce how much they train by approximately 10-20% during a major growth spurt. This may be as simple as dropping one training session per week.
- Make sure your child is stretching after sport, especially the knee and ankle muscle which tend to get tightest. Examples of these stretches are here (the first five ones are usually the most important):
- I’m showing my age by saying it seems to be the trend among “young people” to wear very flat shoes or shoes with laces open. The arches of the feet don’t get good support from these styles, and that can cause problems right up the leg.
- No slouching! Long hours sitting at school and studying can lead to lazy postural muscles, and slouching, which can bring on all sorts of problems. Long use of tablets and smartphones is making slouching a bit of an epidemic. Make sure they are studying at a well set up desk and chair, and that they sit into the seat properly (see below if using a computer).
- Make sure they are getting enough sleep!
- And finally – always listen to a child – if they are complaining of a pain that won’t go away, in pain at night-time or crying with pain, it needs to be checked.