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When should my child play through the pain?

Before you tell your child to ‘play through the pain’, it is important to understand the difference between discomfort and pain. When participating in exercise, sport or recreational activities, it is often normal to feel discomfort. Discomfort may include sore muscles because our body is not used to an activity. If your child is experiencing discomfort, they may feel okay to continue playing. On the other hand, pain can be a sign that something may be wrong. Pain, swelling and a decrease in the ability to perform in their chosen sport may occur if your child has experienced an injury. At this point, it is important they see a health care professional and receive a proper evaluation and diagnosis before returning to play. There may be times that your child cannot remember an injury occurring, but they are still experiencing pain. This may occur if your child is involved in a sport that requires repetitive type activities like overhead throwing, running, or swimming. Overuse injuries may occur from an increase in the amount of training, a change in equipment such as a tennis racquet or new pair of shoes, or a change in technique. A proper evaluation from a health care professional is also important in dealing with overuse injuries, especially if your child is having pain during or after activity. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between discomfort and pain. If pain or discomfort is affecting your child’s performance, it is best to see your health care professional.

(This answer provided for NATA by Stephanie Jevas, PhD, ATC, LAT.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.