No pain – no gain may seem like a good idea to some athletes, but there is definitely no gain when the pain results in a sports injury. While some injuries, known as “acute” injuries, will clearly bench a player at the time they are received, others are less obvious. These subtle injuries, when left unaddressed, will continually worsen during play, leading to further damage later in time. They are called “overuse” injuries.

If you experience any kind of pain during the game, then you should never just play through it. “Playing through pain is never recommended for the recreational athlete or high school athlete,” Dr. Mallo advises, “Personally, as a pitcher, I ignored nagging elbow pain for 2 years while in junior high, which resulted in two elbow surgeries and missing sophomore and junior seasons. It turns out that a few months of rest at the time I first experienced pain would have prevented surgery and preserved my career.”

Rather than ignore the pain, learn to identify red flags: joint stiffness, dizziness, and limping are just some of the symptoms you may notice that could be indications of a future overuse injury. Athletes who are careful to balance their play time, and not play through the pain may be able to avoid long term injuries and extend their playing careers.