Dear Coach: I'm 12, and I just grew four inches in three months. Now I have constant pain in my legs, and my coordination is shot. I can't sink a basket, and I feel as if I'm constantly stumbling down the court. What can I do?
Dear Growing: The pains associated with the natural growth process can last a few weeks or even a few months. "Bones can grow very quickly in comparison to soft tissues, muscles and tendons," says Richard Parker, an osteopathic specialist and team doctor at San Diego State. Parker suggests regular stretching and strengthening exercises to lessen the pain. "Try calisthenics," says Parker. "Don't use weights." Once the discomfort subsides, your coordination should return, but keep in mind that you could have growing pains again in the future. "The growing process ends at age 16 to 18," says Parker. "Until then, these types of pains can happen anytime."
Dear Coach: I'm 15, and I've been a catcher since age eight. Will I have knee problems in the future?
Dear Worried: Although repeated squatting can result in permanent damage to your knees, there are ways to prevent long-term trouble. "Good exercise and frequent icing are crucial," says Vijay Vad, who practices sports medicine at New York City's Hospital for Special Surgery. "Strengthening your quadriceps is very important, because if you don't have enough strength in your upper legs, you'll put too much pressure on your knees. Consequently, the kneecaps won't glide properly, increasing the risk of future ills." Icing soothes muscle inflammation around the kneecaps. Says Vad, "All you need is 15 minutes of icing after a game."