Overtraining syndrome and overuse injury in young athletes

Last updated: 07 Dec 2023 Topics: Elite athletes Research Athlete wellbeing

This research article, titled 'Is my kid doing too much sport?' – How to reduce the risk of overtraining syndrome and overuse injury in young athletes (PDF), defines overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome and looks at how prevalent these both are in youth athletes today.

It details the signs and symptoms to look out for and how to reduce the risk or overuse injury and overtraining syndrome in young athletes. 

Authors: Rhodri S Lloyd and Paul Read
Published: 2016


Participation in sport offers many benefits to children and adolescents. However, children who are deemed to possess ‘talent’ for a particular sport are often encouraged to specialise in a single sport by coaches and parents from early childhood.

Often, aspiring young athletes who are attempting to make selection for regional or national squads, or who are seeking to secure professional contracts, are encouraged to start highly intensive, sport-specific training for a single sport from a young age.

Additionally, these young athletes are often required to play in a number of high-level competitions in a bid to ‘overtake’ their peers.

Unfortunately, data is now emerging that highlights the risks associated with this approach, whereby a focus on high levels of training for a single sport can lead to an increased risk of overuse injury, overtraining and even burnout.

Top tips for preventing overtraining and overuse injuries

Manage workload

  • Avoid young people training in a single sport for more than 8 months per year
  • Avoid children participating in a single sport for more hours per week than their chronological age, or above 16 hours
  • Ensure enough time for rest with at least 1 full day off each week

Strength and conditioning

  • Children should have a varied exercise program to develop a wide range of fundamental movement skills, including functional strength training, flexibility exercises, and motor skills development
  • Training programs should have both general and specific activities
  • Strength and conditioning should be embedded into training as an essential activity


  • Use a variety of training equipment that has been properly sized for training and competing
  • Adjust equipment needs to each individual as they grow

Regular check-ins

  • Create awareness and understanding around injury and wellbeing, asking young athletes to give a ‘ready to train’ score from 1-5 before each session
  • Encourage athletes to avoid playing through pain
  • Keep focus on overall wellness and encourage young people to listen to problems in their own body
Download the full article (PDF)

Further information