Running is ranked as one of the top 3 activities that adolescents (10-19 year olds) partake in. There is a lot known about running related injuries in adults, but unfortunately often this research is then applied to running injuries in adolescents. Yet they are very different to adults and need to be treated as a specialist subgroup.
One of the problems is that “maturation” needs to be considered rather than age. You can have two 14 year old’s whose bodies are at two very different points of development – specific questioning will help your professional gauge where they are at in this maturation process - the outcome of this can mean quite different management.
Overuse injuries rank highly in running injuries in adolescents, particularly to the bone and soft tissues (eg tendinopathies) in this age group. Boys and girls can differ slightly. Girls can be more prone to bone stress related injuries – image and weight can put external pressures on girls and increased training loads in an undernutritioned state can cause major issues.
A key issue in this age-group can be growth. Growth spurts mean bigger, heavier, longer bones.
The strength in the muscles can take a long time to catch up to the new bone structure. The tendons that attach the muscle to bone take time to adjust to the new forces going through them – in adults this takes time, but in adolescents this time is much greater. Recovery, rest, sleep, good nutrition, careful increases in levels of exercise are so essential.
Single sport involvement has risks – mixing things up is important, it allows kids to develop all round better co-ordination, strength, balance, endurance etc. Research on strength in runners and its benefits in injury prevention is mixed, but neuromuscular control appears important. This puts a focus on how the person runs, their technique etc. A careful assessment of how a person runs, their step rate and so on is extremely important. Running related drills would then also seem to be helpful rather than just strength, although hip and knee strength does have some evidence for helping if indicated on some functional tests.
At Physiologix, we have had a long interest in running related injuries in adolescents (and adults) and working with adolescents as a specialist group. When you book an appointment, make sure to bring runners with you. We will look at shoe wear as well as run technique. Your physio will run over all aspects from how much, how often, recovery, technique changes, to other components you need to integrate –a multi-factor approach is often what is needed not just to ensure recovery this time but prevention long term.
And one last thing, trying to keep an adolescent this age involved with their sport is essential: it is not only a physical health but also a mental health need, as well as often being an important part of their social network. Beware of stopping this age group totally from their chosen activities!!!
Physiologix is based upstairs at the Gap Health and Racquet Club. Call us on (07) 3511 1112 or email from the webpage physiologix.com.au