More and more kids are pushing their bodies to the limits! We just got done watching the Sochi Olympics, where the youngest athlete, ski jumper Gianini Ernst of Germany, made the cut off by being born just hours before midnight December 31st 1998! More and more kids are running distance races like half-marathons, including a 9-yr-old boy who ran the Gasparilla half marathon in 1:40:42 not only killing my half marathon PR (humbling!) but also beating the world record by over 1 minute! Now I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that I think a half marathon at 9 is too young for most kids, obviously not this young boy!
There are many injuries, overuse and traumatic, that can occur in young athletes including broken bones, tendonitis and apophysitis (fancy word for inflamed growth plates). They are still in full on growth stages so children have to be very careful when undertaking ANY sport to extremes.
Here are some tips to keep them healthy:
Just like adults--cross train! You use different muscles and develop a different type of agility, speed and hand eye coordination. Don't just go to 5 hours of Irish Dance per week, play soccer, ice skate!
Take a mandatory rest day every week. One day of recovery with no formal physical activity can go a long way for little muscles!
Stretch, stretch, stretch! Kids get tight muscles too be sure to give them the stretching they need.
If something doesn't feel right, take a few days off. We all tend to push it and then get injured! If we listen to our bodies (or to what our kids are telling us), often you can ward of injury all on your own.
As long as they are having fun, being smart with training and LOVE what they are doing, sports can teach great life lessons about persistence, dedication and hard work.