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When Your Young Athlete Says Something Hurts: Listen

When Your Young Athlete Says Something Hurts: Listen


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The World is a competitive place and we all want to push our kids to do their absolute best. Of course, nowhere is this more true than in sports. Only a fraction of the best players go on to play in high school let alone college, and even a smaller fraction go on to professional sports.


back painA few months ago, my older son started complaining of lower back pain. He is a very stiff kid in general, and really needs to do a lot more stretching. He’s also growing very fast so we just assumed it was growing pains and told him to stretch more, and figured he was just sore. He was very tentative with his swing and pitching, and kept telling us that his back was really sore after playing. We took him to our general practitioner and he recommended physical therapy, so we took him to a few weeks of sessions as he continued playing. He felt a little better, but was still having back pain after practices and games. He continued to do his stretches every day and we were icing, heating, and doing all of the things that the therapist recommended.


spine xrayAfter four months he was still complaining of back pain, so we took him to an orthopedic doctor. She did X-rays and didn’t find any structural problems so she recommended an MRI. We did discover from the X-rays that he had non-structural scoliosis most likely from muscle spasms, but that it should correct itself. We really didn’t want to do the MRI because of the cost and still thinking that maybe he was just growing fast, but decided to get it done.


When we got the results, we found out that he had a stress-reaction pre-fracture in his back and had to be completely shut down from activity. He doesn’t even remember how it happened or what he could have done to injure himself. Usually, this is caused by a hard impact. It was the beginning of his sophomore baseball season and he had only played two games. Understandably, he was very upset but was also sick of feeling back pain, and had been afraid to tell the coaches because he didn’t want to be put on the bench. But, his game was suffering because he was not throwing as hard as he should have and his swing was not full.


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physical therapySo, we notified the coach, shut him down, and he started physical therapy again two days a week for four weeks, and got a lot of rest. Luckily this time he healed and is back to feeling good. Unfortunately, he missed the whole spring season, only coming back to play in the last game.


After finding out that he had a more serious injury than we originally thought, I felt terrible. Was I a bad mother because I didn’t stop him from playing right away and get the MRI? Looking back, I wish I had just taken him in sooner and had it checked. But he felt pressure to keep up with his teammates and wanted to keep playing. And I felt pressure to push him to just suck it up, and truly thought he would heal naturally with stretching and ice. It’s unknown what further damage could have been caused to his back by continuing to play and practice.


shoulder and elbow ice packBut when is the point that you take pain seriously and get it checked out? We all get aches and pains, get sore from activity, and take Ibuprofen occasionally after workouts to ease trauma on our bodies. We were icing him and the coaches were not pitching him more than the recommended pitch count. I just figured that was all it was, and I was wrong.

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A young athlete shouldn’t go that long feeling pain. A couple of weeks of soreness and they really should be back to normal unless something is wrong. I highly recommend getting your child checked out after a couple of weeks have gone by and he or she is not feeling better. Don’t give in to the pressure like I did because ultimately it’s not worth it. If they’re having pain, let them start healing as soon as possible and it will be a much quicker process. In the long run, it’s better to miss a few games, than to have ongoing problems, and you don’t want your kid to be suffering in pain.


j-bandsOne of the best ways to prevent sports injuries is to stretch, stretch, stretch! Also, core strengthening is key to keeping your young athlete from pulling and straining muscles. This school year my son also took a yoga class and he said it has really helped him to become more limber and he’s been using it as part of his regular warm-up routine on the field. Using J-bands to strengthen the arms, shoulders, back, and core, should be done regularly by all baseball players, especially pitchers.


Rest and icing should be practiced after every game especially if your son or daughter is pitching. Even catchers throw a lot of balls during a game and should ice their arms and shoulders regularly. Remember, they are still growing and their muscles and bones are changing, so we have to take good care during their development.



For more information on working out with J-Bands, visit my blog page which includes a video showing some awesome warm-up exercises that your young player should be doing.

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  1. Yes this is so true that we have to listen what our body, what our system, what our mind and our feeling telling us, otherwise we will learn to hear from the hard way. This is also my experience. Thank you for your post 🙂

  2. Gina Buckley

    Your story is very similar to my daughter’s. She was a volleyball player and complained of back pain and we just thought it was a muscle and did all of the things you mentioned. Finally after a few weeks, we took her to the dr. He confirmed it was a muscle. Continued stretching, massage, KT tape as she continued to play. She managed to finish the season at nationals, but was in tears when she came off the court due to pain. I took her to an orthopedic surgeon, Mom’s intuition. She had a nearly complete stress fracture of the L4 vertebrae. So yes, it can get much worse. By this point she had been playing in pain for a couple of months. She ended up in a back brace for 4 months and went through many months of PT. She missed 9 months and it was not easy to come back. So, you definitely did the right thing.

    Thank you for your story,
    P.S. My son is a LHP and starts playing baseball as a freshman at a JUCO next week. Best wishes to your son and his recovery.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that. I’m glad your daughter was able to make a comeback. My son only got to play the last game of the season, but he played some summer ball and is now training for cross country. He gets a little achy, but he knows he has to stretch a lot. Wishing luck to your son with baseball! 🙂

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