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11/3/23 blog post

when to be concerned about an overuse injury

young athlete baseball pitcher

in this article:

Student athletes today are busier and more active than ever with near daily practices, training sessions or competitions. While regular activity is beneficial for their physical and emotional health, it’s equally important not to push them too hard and cause an overuse injury. We sat down with Lora Scott, MD, chief of sports medicine at Dayton Children’s, to learn more about overuse injuries, how to treat them and when to be concerned. 

what is an overuse injury? 

An overuse injury is a repeated, microscopic injury that causes inflammation in the bone, muscle or tendon. An overuse injury can occur when an athlete is demanding his or her body to do more exercise than it is ready to do and does not have proper time to heal between exercise sessions. The injury could also be due to age, improper technique or conditioning level. 

what are symptoms of an overuse injury? 

"Good" pain (soreness while getting in shape) and "bad" pain (overuse injury) feel the same at the beginning. Both start as mild pain during or after exercise. General soreness (good pain) will get better over time. Adequate warm-ups and stretching can help relieve symptoms. "Bad" pain (injury) will get worse over time. 
Symptoms of an overuse injury, include: 

  • Mild pain during or after exercise that gets worse over time 

  • Limping 

  • Change in technique due to pain 

  • Slowing down 

  • Need to take frequent breaks 

Another indication that your child is experiencing an overuse injury is if they’re experiencing pain earlier in workouts, the pain starts to happen outside of exercise, and increases in frequency and/or intensity. 

when should I be concerned about my child’s overuse injury? 

A parent should be concerned about an overuse injury anytime pain is significant enough to cause a visible change in performance, like limping, technique change, slowing down, frequent breaks, etc. If this happens, have your child take a few days off from exercise and treat at home.  

If this does not help or if symptoms return upon going back to exercise, it is time to get it checked out. Any pain which is still present after the season ends should also be evaluated, before the next season starts   

how is an overuse injury treated? 

The ultimate treatment is to reduce activities, or even take time off. Depending on the injury, it may or may not be safe to finish the season before taking time off. 

Some serious medical conditions which are unrelated to sports may have similar symptoms as overuse injuries. Please have any concerns evaluated. The sports medicine team at Dayton Children’s will do its best to keep your athlete playing as long as it is safe to do so. 

To make an appointment with a sports medicine provider, please visit  

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Lora Scott, MD

division chief sports medicine
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