Overuse injury

Medical Specialties: Orthopedics, Physical medicine & rehab

Clinical Definition

An overuse injury is any type of injury to the joints or bones from repetitive movements. Participating in certain sports can put stress on the bones, joints, ligaments or tendons in the body. The repetitive stress placed on the same body part can cause micro-trauma, such as tears in the muscle fibers. Over time, the micro-trauma can lead to overuse injuries, such as tendinitis and stress fractures. 

In Our Own Words

Participating in sports and performing the same motion repeatedly can put stress on the bones and joints in the body. And, as we age, our tendons become less forgiving and slower to repair themselves. Young athletes are not immune, however, and they, too, must allow enough time for rest and recovery between exertions. Repeated stress causes small injuries or micro-traumas, which over time can lead to an overuse injury. There are many types of overuse injuries, which may affect the tendons, bones, ligaments and joints. Equipment used, body alignment and training techniques may all play a role in development and avoidance of overuse injuries.

Relevant Conditions
  • Tendinitis, tendinopathy
Common Types
  • Tennis elbow
  • Runner's knee
  • Shin splints
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
Side Effects
  • Pain in the affected area when in use, or when pressed by doctor during exam
  • Inflammation at the affected area may not be present
Share this article
  • Matava, Matthew MD. “What is an Overuse Injury?” American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. http://www.sportsmed.org. Assessed October 2013.
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Overuse injuries in Children." http://orthoinfo.aaos.org. Assessed October 2013.
  • Boston Children’s Hospital. "Overuse Injuries." http://www.childrenshospital.org. Assessed October 2013.
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