Junkfood Science: Little League - itis?

May 31, 2007

Little League - itis?

Doctors in Madison, Wisconsin, are urging caution with today’s promotion of intense exercise and sports for children. They are seeing more adult-type overuse injuries caused by repetitive motion and impact in kids as young as 8.

Already, joint replacements due to overexercising have become such an epidemic among Babyboomers, it’s been called “boomeritis.” But many adults ignore the advice of experts on children’s physiology and exercise, and expect children to exercise like adults. If kids aren’t doing 60-90 minutes of continuous exercise, they’re seen as “inactive” couch potatoes. As was reviewed here, children are not little adults and they are naturally active in very different ways from grown-ups. Adult types and durations of exercise can be harmful to their growing and developing bodies, as Dr. Brian Reeder explained to WISC-TV viewers:

Doctors Warn About Repetitive Motion Injuries Among Young Athletes

Injuries can now being seen increasingly in 8- and 9-year-olds that doctors say used to occur more typically in late high school or college-age students are overuse injuries caused by repetitive motions and impacts in sports...

“The most common thing is just that it's used a lot," said Dr. Brian Reeder who specializes in treating the aches and pains that are becoming more serious. Reeder said that such problems are worth paying attention to in young athletes. "Something is done over and over and over again -- repetitive running or stress on use of the legs or arms or other parts of the body can make things wear out or wear down to where they get fatigued or tired," he said.

Reeder said that children's bodies are still growing, and injuries can happen in those areas known as growth plates because they're more vulnerable. “The growth plate is an area of the bone that allows the bone to get longer," Reeder said. “Those tend to be the weak link in the chain, the muscles to tendons, the tendons to bones. The bone-to-bone growth plate area is a relatively weak link. It's (an) active growing tissue that doesn't handle stress quite as well as a closed growth plate bone would handle stress."

Those growth areas are near joints. Impact created by running and throwing, over time, can cause stress fractures.... Doctors said that overuse injuries can get worse during growth spurts, but also can be aggravated by the growing trend of playing the same sport all year round.

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