Recognizing when injuries aren't just soreness

jonbuzby@hotmail.comAugust 26, 2012 

With youth sports, comes injuries. And they are even more prevalent this time of year as fall sports practices begin and unused ligaments and muscles are used for the first time in a while.

It doesn't matter the sport or the level, general soreness, bumps and bruises, and aches and pains are going to occur as the first sprints and laps are run, and in some cases, hits delivered and absorbed.

The key is to recognize the difference between natural soreness from lack of use and a real injury. This is vital, because guessing wrong might not only result in the loss of playing time now, but could cause further injury down the road.

As a parent or coach it's even harder to determine soreness versus injury with kids because often they don't know themselves. The natural thing to do when you feel pain is to stop whatever is causing it. And during early-season practices this often means a player will stop running because his calves hurt, thinking he is injured. But the reality is, it's just soreness from not running all summer, and continuing to run isn't going to cause an injury, and in fact, might work out the soreness faster.

The old adage "no pain, no gain," is just that -- old. Pain is not fun for anyone, let alone kids. But at the same time, kids who are athletes have to understand that there is probably going to be some soreness experienced during those first practices and that they have to play through it.

Sometimes the key is trying to explain to them the difference between being sore and being in pain. I like to use real-life examples whenever I can. A pulled hangnail is sore and doesn't mean you stop writing and skip homework. A severe headache is an injury and might keep you home from school or practice. Or obviously, if your child has experienced a "real" injury, like a broken bone, that's the example to use.

I tell parents all the time, when in doubt, take your child's word for it that he or she is injured. Think about how awful you will feel if what you called "calf soreness" actually turns out to be something much more severe.

Skipping a practice to recover from an injury, even if it really is just soreness, isn't going to cost your child a season. But not skipping one when he or she should, might.

Reach Jon Buzby at and follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.

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