Can a kid train too much for one sport?


2 Responses to “Can a kid train too much for one sport?”

  1. October 24, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    TOO much exercise for children may not be a good thing. In fact, it may be bad for them.

    This is what doctors are increasingly concerned with in light of the growth of youth-level sports in Singapore.

    That is not all. Doctors are also cautioning against allowing children to specialise in a sport at an early age.

    The Straits Times reported recently that an increasing number of young Singapore athletes are putting their studies on hold in favour of training full-time for their sport.

    And with Singapore set to host the inaugural Youth Olympic Games next year, and the government providing a warchest of $5 million to prepare the Republic’s athletes for the Games, the emphasis on youth sports has never been stronger, noted Swimfast Aquatic Club head coach David Lim.

    He said: ‘People’s minds have started to change. Compared to five years ago, the number of children participating in sports has increased significantly.’

    The increase in the number of participants in the junior categories of mass participation events is a clear sign of such a boom.

    For example, the recent Osim Triathlon saw 500 children and teenagers participating in three age-group categories. They had to complete a 100m swim leg, a 5km bicycle leg and a 1km run.

    This is a significant increase from 128 kids when the categories were first introduced in 2003.

    While all this suggests a growing youth sports scene, parents, coaches and athletes must balance the desire to excel in a sport with the need to protect young muscles, bones and joints.

    ‘Children are not just smaller versions of adults,’ said Dr Jason Chia, consultant sports physician at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre.

    ‘Their skeletal structures are not mature and cannot withstand impact and sheer forces as well as adults.’

    A clinical report published in 2007 in Paediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics, also noted that children are less able to recognise fatigue or poor performances as signs of injury.

    Constant close observation by parents and coaches will be key to the prevention of such injuries.

    Dr Ong Wee Sian, head and consultant sports physician at the Sports Medicine Service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital said: ‘Weight gain, height gain, appetite, school performance, sports performance, and fatigue level are all indicators of possible problems.’

    While there are guidelines to help prevent overuse and burnout, it is important for parents to ensure individual monitoring.

    Dr Chia explained: ‘Young athletes mature at different rates. So two young athletes of the same age at different stages of physical development may respond differently to the same training programme.’

    Injuries are most commonly suffered by youths training in running, swimming, badminton, basketball and football. Commonly-affected areas are the knees, heels and shoulders.

    Repetitive stress and overuse injuries are also concerns if a child specialises in a sport too soon.

    Dr Ong is advising parents of children aged nine and below to expose them to a wide variety of sports. They should also emphasise the importance of having fun instead of letting their kids specialise in a sport.

    This will enable them to pick up a range of motor skills. It will also result in their all-round development as they will use different muscle groups.

    ‘Most parents believe that specialising early will give their child an edge, but there is no evidence to support a definite advantage,’ she said.

    ‘In fact, the drop-out rate among those who do so is very high. Only a few will reach the top.’

  2. 2 Butch
    October 26, 2009 at 11:22 AM

    As I live vicariously through my 8-year old son’s football career, I find myself obsessed with immersing him in the sport so he’ll continue to progress toward a lucrative NFL contract. Of course I’m joking about the contract part. However, I am trying to have him continue to improve and progress in the sport. Interestingly, one of my idols, Joe Paterno, was once asked if he thought it was important for kids to play football early, in order to develop the skills necessary to excel in the sport in high school and college. Coach Paterno’s response kind of horrified me. He said it was absolutely unnecessary for kids to play early. His advice was to have kids play a variety of sports to develop strength and coordination. The bottom line, he said, was that he could always teach someone how to play football. Case in point, Penn State’s starting roster has at least two players who started playing football either in high school or later.

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