Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries describe injuries affecting the overuse of various bones, ligaments, muscles and joints. These are becoming more common in younger persons especially related to overtraining and poor technique in athletic sports training.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

As the referral center for Greater Cincinnati and the region, the Sports Medicine program provides top-quality care for even the most complex musculoskeletal conditions. We customize treatment plans that use the most innovative, effective surgical and nonsurgical techniques to restore function, relieve pain for professional athletes, high school sports teams and anyone who leads an active lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Sports Medicine & Concussion team at 513-475-8690.


Understanding Overuse Injuries

An increasing number of boys and girls are playing recreational and organized sports. As a result, there is a rise in the number of overuse injuries seen among children and teens. Most sports and overuse injuries are due to  injuries that affect the bone, muscles, ligaments, or tendons.

What are the most common types of overuse injuries?

Overuse injuries can lead to stress fractures. Stress fractures are weak spots or small cracks in the bone caused by continuous overuse. Stress fractures often occur in the foot after training for basketball, running, and other sports. There often is no swelling, but pain and tenderness often increase during movement.

Types of overuse injury

Jumper's Knee

  • Symptoms - Tenderness right below the knee or the upper shin area.
  • Possible Cause - The patellar tendon in the knee joint is repeatedly pulled on, causing inflammation and pain, especially during jumping activities.    

Little Leaguers' Elbow or Shoulder    

  • Symptoms - Pain in the elbow or shoulder area, especially after activity.
  • Possible Cause - Repetitive overhead throwing maneuvers that cause damage and inflammation to the growth plates of the bones in the arm (or as a result of a fracture).    

Osteochondritis Dissecans

  • Symtpoms - Joint pain and swelling.
  • Possible Cause - A piece of the cartilage in the knee, elbow, or ankle joint that separates from the joint surface. Theories suggest that it may run in families or be caused by a metabolic problem.

Sever's Disease

  • Symptoms - Heel pain with limping, especially after running activities.
  • Possible Cause - Repetitive running or jumping activities causes the Achilles tendon to pull on the heel bone.

Shin Splints

  • Symptoms - Pain and tenderness over the shin area
  • Possible Cause - Excessive running, running on hard surfaces (concrete), and improper shoe wear often cause shin splints.

Sinding-Larsen-Johansson Disease

  • Symptoms - Knee pain, especially after jumping activities
  • Possible Cause - This disease is caused by an irritation of the kneecap due to repetitive extension on the patellar tendon in the knee (the tendon pulls away from the bone).


  • Symptoms - Back pain
  • Possible Cause - This condition is caused by excessive extension of the low back. X-rays show that a part of 1 vertebra in the low back slips forward on the vertebrae below it. It is commonly seen in football linemen, gymnasts, and ice skaters.  


  • Symptoms - Back pain
  • Possible Cause - This condition is caused by excessive flexion and extension of the lower back. It is commonly seen in football linemen, gymnasts, and ice skaters. A stress fracture of 1 of the vertebrae is seen on X-ray.

Treatment of an overuse injury

The goal of treatment is to control the pain, promote healing, prevent complications, and restore normal use of the injured area.

Initial treatment for overuse injuries includes R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).

Be sure to consult your child's doctor if there is a prolonged, visible deformity of the affected area, or if severe pain prevents use of the arm, leg, wrist, ankle, foot, or knee.

Other treatment options may include:

  • Medicine.

  • Activity restrictions.

  • Splint or cast.

  • Crutches or wheelchair.

  • Physical therapy (to stretch and strengthen the injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons).

  • Surgery (especially if the injury is recurring, there is persistent pain, or if a muscle, tendon, or ligament is badly torn).

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