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Overuse Injuries


 'Overplay' is a term used to describe the cause of injuries found in players and athletes due to excessive overuse of specific parts of their body. Young players are particularly vulnerable to 'overuse' injuries caused by 'overplay'. The aim of this article is to alert coaches and parents to the risks of 'overplay'.

An 'overuse' injury is an injury involving certain bones or muscles/tendons of the body, which develops over a period of time, due to too much repetitive activity. The injury becomes worse with continued activity at the same level. It will continue unless correct medical advice and treatment is followed.

The increasing intensity of sport has led to the wider recognition of 'overuse' injuries to children and adolescents. Four main causative factors of 'overuse' injuries have been put forward:-

Load, Technique, Posture, Equipment.

In young footballers the factor of "load" refers to the amount of training and playing time and the posture factor are highly relevant to causes of 'overuse' injury.


Factors To Consider.

  • Bone grows faster than muscle and other soft tissues.
  • Muscle matures more quickly in young athletes than in non athletes.
  • Growth spurts - As bone grows faster than soft tissue there is an additional risk to the pre-adolescent who loses flexibility and the "pull" on the "soft" bone increases.
  • Growth plates - The areas where bone grows are weakest during puberty and this area is vulnerable to injury.
  • Different bones fully harden at different times. Bones are not fully mature until 18-21 years old. Up to this age the bones are "softer" and more susceptible to injury.
  • Youth's shape is changing rapidly. He is battling to adapt to changing shape:- i.e. strength: weight ratio, balance, co-ordination
  • Difference in leg lengths through growth phase: leg length inequality causes an unequal transmission of forces across the spine during weight bearing activities. 1cm - 2 cms difference is thought to be significant.
  • Factors affecting development:- hormones, diet, training/exercise

Football involves the strong actions of running, jumping, landing, kicking and fast direction changes which increases the chance of injury, if excessive repetitive actions of this type are performed.


What To Look For - Recognising Problems

The Football Association wish to alert all concerned with the development of young players to the potential medical problems that can occur. Excessive competitive matches and training will reduce safety margins. The risk of 'overuse' injury will be increased. 'Overuse' conditions caused by excessive participation can often be dismissed as 'growing pains' without proper medical diagnosis being sought. The four regions of the body that are particularly affected by 'overuse' injuries in footballers are:

Back, Shin, Knee, Ankle/Heel.


Recognition of 'Overuse' Injury - Signs and Symptoms

The following serves to act as a guide. If several of the signs and symptoms are present, a medical opinion should be sought.

  • Problem usually comes on gradually and continues whilst player continues to train and play.
  • Main symptoms are aching, discomfort or pain in the area of the problem.
  • Pain when particular movement is performed.
  • No history of 'direct' injury.
  • Player may complain of stiffness/aching after or during training or competition.
  • Several hours/days for player to become 'painfree' following training/match.
  • Player may demonstrate tenderness to touch or pressure over affected area.
  • Visible swelling may be present in the case of 'overuse' injury affecting the knee or heel area.
  • Player shows history of missing training sessions or matches due to injury.
  • The problem does not go away. It will get progressively worse with continued activity.


What To Do? - Action To Be Taken If You Suspect 'Overuse' Injury.

Pain, swelling, tenderness and aching are nature's way of informing us that something is wrong with our body. If some, or all of the signs and symptoms outlines previously are present, then a medical opinion should be sought. The player's family doctor should be consulted. He/she will then advise the player and his/her parents as to the course of action and arrange further consultations and tests, if thought necessary.


If you have any concerns, or require more information, please contact either your team manager, or one of the other officials of the club. Contact details are on the officers page.