Treatments for Overuse Injuries in Children

Boston Children's Hospital's Orthopedic Center provides patients with comprehensive care—including evaluation, diagnosis, consultation, non-surgical therapies, surgery and follow-up care.

Initial treatment to stabilize an overuse injury usually includes “R.I.C.E.” (rest, ice, compression and elevation), as well as medications to help control pain and swelling.

But the most important therapy for the injury is simply to rest it—restricting all activities that involve using the injured muscle, tendon, ligament or bone—for a period of weeks or months as determined by your child's Sports Medicine specialist. The doctor may also recommend a splint, cast or boot to protect the injured area from further damage.

For an unusually severe overuse injury, treatment options may include:

  • temporary crutches or a wheelchair
  • physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the injured muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • surgery if the injury is recurring, if there's persistent pain, or if a muscle, tendon or ligament is badly torn

Caring for your child as he heals

Your child's doctor will give you guidance about how long your child's overuse injury should be rested in order for it to heal. Most overuse injury patients are able to return to sports and regular activities after several weeks or months of rest and healing time.

During the healing period, it's important for everybody in the family to support the young athlete's resolve to rest the healing area, since he may feel disappointed and even a bit depressed at not being able to play his sport.

Coping and support

At Boston Children's Hospital, we understand that a hospital visit can be difficult, and sometimes overwhelming. So, we offer many amenities to make your child's—and your own—hospital experience as pleasant as possible. Our Center for Families staff will give you all the information you need regarding:

  • getting to Children's
  • accommodations
  • navigating the hospital experience
  • resources that are available for your family

In particular, we understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with an overuse injury. Will this affect my child long term? When can he return to his sports and activities? Children's can connect you with extensive resources to help you and your family through this stressful time, including:

  • patient education: From the first doctor's appointment to treatment and recovery, our staff will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer questions you may have—How long will his recovery take? Will he need home exercises and physical therapy? We'll help you coordinate and continue the care and support your child received while at Children's.
  • parent-to-parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for an overuse injury? We can often put you in touch with other families who've been through the same process that you and your child are facing, and who will share with you their experience at Children's.
  • faith-based support: If you're in need of spiritual support, we'll connect you with the Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy— representing Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic and other faith traditions—who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your Children's experience.
  • social work: Our clinical social workers have helped many families in your situation. Your Children's social worker can offer counseling and assistance with issues such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to dealing with a child's injury, changing family dynamics and financial issues.