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How Parents Can Help Their Child Avoid Running Injuries

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
running kids

Whether your child runs to win races, to train for another sport or just for the joy of it, running can be tough on the body. Running may cause stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints and just plain sore feet and knees.

Laura Goldberg, MD, pediatric sports medicine specialist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, offers these training tips to help reduce your child’s risk of incurring running-related sports injuries.

  • Choose your child’s running shoes carefully. Make sure they provide good shock absorption and strong support. A shoe with a stiff heel counter (the part at the back of the heel above the sole) offers more rear foot control, which can help keep the foot and ankle from rolling. Your child should never run a race in new shoes and should always make sure their laces are tied tightly.
  • Replace worn shoes. Your child needs new shoes after 500 miles of use; that’s about every eight months if they run 2 miles or more a day.
  • Run on a track or other soft surface. This will help decrease the pounding to the feet and legs. Avoid running on a slanted surface.
  • Warm up before and cool down afterward. Your child should stretch both before and after a run. The stretching routine should include stretches for the calves, thighs and hamstrings.
  • Begin running sessions with a slow walk. Progress to a slow jog before picking up speed.
  • Use proper technique. Avoid over-striding or taking too wide a stride by having the feet land beneath the hips. Keep the shoulders back and the hands lightly cupped. Avoid clenching the fists. Maintain the elbows at a 90-degree angle, close to the body.
  • Increase running time, distance and intensity gradually. It’s best for your child to take a rest from running one or two days a week. Doing so will allow their body time to recover.

What to Do When Running Injuries Occur

Despite doing everything right, your child still might experience an injury. These tips may aid in recovery:

  • Apply ice to areas with swelling. Use heat if there is minimal swelling over an area that needs increased circulation.
  • Switch to non-weight-bearing exercises. Swimming and bike riding are good alternatives.
  • Perform stretching and strengthening exercises. A physical therapist or sports medicine specialist can provide an appropriate regimen, depending on your child’s injury.

If your child develops any recurring leg, knee or foot pain from running, consult your child’s doctor for treatment options.

Related Links:

The pediatric sports medicine specialists at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s can help young athletes safely train for their sport of choice, offer strategies for injury prevention and manage any injuries that may occur.

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