Young children playing sport is great for exercise and learning the meaning of working together, but how much sport is enough? Nelfrie Kemp discusses key issues.
At one time or another most of us have experienced growing pains, but what should be done if the “growing pains” become a regular occurrence interfering with daily activity? Pain is not normal, and is a sign from your body that something is not functioning at its optimum potential. Pain should not be ignored – and the worst advice is to “just work through it”. If the pain is activity related and does not subside, it’s best to get professional advice.
With the new school year having just started, the following questions often get asked. How much sport should a child be doing? How far can a child run? When should a child start with weight training? Can children really suffer from sports injuries?
Let’s look at a few developmental factors.
Bone formation (ossification or osteogenesis) begins in the sixth and seventh weeks of embryonic development and continues until the age of 25. Growth plates harden into solid bone in girls between the ages of 13 and 15, and in boys between 15 and 17 years. Peak muscle mass occurs between the ages of 16 and 20 years in girls, and 18 and 25 years in boys.
Children are meant to run around barefoot and play for hours, but are they meant to play intense sport on artificial surfaces for a few hours a day, every day?
Think about this: Adults who spend two hours or more training every day for a particular sport will be considered as semi-professional or serious about sport. They would address their nutrition, follow a conditioning programme, and have specific shoes and gear.
The same should apply to your child. When playing sport for more than three hours a week, they need to wear the proper gear, follow a proper diet that would fuel their bodies, and look at conditioning programmes specific for their age and sport. Common lower limb growing pain conditions are Sever’s disease/heel pain, and Osgood-Schlatters disease/knee pain.
3 FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE PAIN
Entrance-level shoes: No-name brand entrance-level shoes are perfect for children if they are simply exploring a sport. However, when they start playing seriously for the A team and for a club and/or extra coaching, they need to get proper shoes.
Sport surfaces: The impact on your body when your foot hits the ground is three to five times your body weight. Over time, repetitive impact can lead to injury, and the surface you train on can contribute to your injury and pain. As an example, dancing and gymnastics should be done on a sprung floor, while indoor hockey and soccer on astro.
Barefoot rugby: This sounds great, but it can lead to a lot of tears. The level and intensity at which kids play rugby these days is harsh on the developing body and leads to injury.
I’ll leave you with this thought. In my practice, there is a definite pattern in the amount of children I treat with sports injuries/growing pains during the relevant sporting season. During the two-year lock-down period I hardly treated children with “growing pain” injuries. I’m not against sport or activity, but are we pushing our children too much?
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