Kids are hard. How are you meant to know if they are really hurt or just complaining?

I coach a group of young kids and this is a question I ask myself all the time.

Sometimes you just “know.”I have some athletes that will run slightly slower then normal and I can tell they are trying to “be brave” and push through a pain. On the other hand I have others that will complain from the warm up, telling me about every pain they ever had just for an excuse to get out of putting in effort that day.

But what about the rest of the time. Well here are my tips to help decide whether your child needs some help!

1. Can they touch the pain or is it vague?

Usually if the pain is very sharp, they can put an exact finger on the pain. If they point to a general area but can’t pin point it, its more often then not, its nothing to worry about (unless it fits into any of the other questions bellow)

2. Is the pain higher then a 5 out of 10 or getting worse?

If the pain isn’t very bad or tends to go away in a week or so, its probably nothing to worry about. If the pain stays around and gets worse, it should probably be looked at. A good way to tell is to ask for a number out of 10, if it starts to get worse over a few days, look to book in.

3. Does it hurt when they wake up the next day?

If the pain lingers after they have been exercising, especially into the next day, its a problem!

4. Does it hurt when they aren’t doing anything or when they are asleep?

If it only hurts under the load of exercise, its probably just the body being stressed by exercise. If it’s still sore when they are resting, chances are it’s an injury. Disturbed sleep is the biggest sign and anytime it hurts so much they cant sleep, it needs to be looked at closely by a doctor.

5. Is the pain limiting there performance?

Have you noticed they just can’t run as fast, or need to come off the field for a rest, when they usually don’t. This is an indication that it’s moved from “growing pain” to injury.


Some areas of pain that are relatively normal for kids are the back of the heel or the bone at the front of the leg just bellow the knee. These are likely growing pain so if they fit into the above question, I suggest a rest for 1-2 weeks and then get back into it. If it hasn’t settled then look for some help. There are lots of ways to manage the “growing pains” so they can keep up with their sport.

Areas that are not normal are deep inside joints, the middle of muscles or their spine. If your children complains about these areas, you should get some help!

An extra piece of advise, if you know your child is going through a growth spurt, drop back on the amount of activities and sports they are doing for a few weeks. Their bodies need a bit more energy when growing, so if all that’s going into sport, it may have a hard time keeping up and lead to  break down. Reducing the physical stress on the body while it is growing will reduce the risk of developing growth related pain and injuries.