So, a topic close to my heart this one. Today I started treatment on a 9 year old girl with patello femoral pain. The said child is one of several I have treated recently as well as countless similar patients I see at an NHS walk in centre. It encouraged me to reflect on the modern child.
Unlike the screechy media I don’t truly believe that children are quite so sedentary as feared (nutrition is a whoooole different thing though). However, anecdotally at least, I perceive children to participate in structured sport much earlier. My son (in the picture) is in the climbing team at Craggy Island (more on them later), he plays hockey for woking, does Judo once a week and comes pole vaulting periodically. He also used to do gymnastics and football and ski’s well. Ask yourself this: what specific sports did you do under the age of 10? He also goes to cubs and is often happiest just stomping around in the woods.
My point is this; my generation all did sport but most of us started a bit later in terms of the structured movements required to do well. As a consequence I would suggest that our injuries also presented at an older age.
I am not for a moment suggesting that lots of sport is a bad thing but I do believe that to prevent our kids having recurrent injuries (and then stopping sport) we need to follow a few simple rules.
1. Mix it up- only participating in one sport is a recipe for an injured and therefore disappointed child. If your child loves their team ball sport encourage a weekly session in a less ballistic environment – martial arts for example.
2. Skills! – sports for children should focus on skills and not specific strength (that comes anyway). Rhys’ climbing team only do climbing, there’s no chin ups, no press ups etc. Not only are they consistently one of the best teams around, the kids are hardly ever injured.
3. Streeeeeetching! I had a great grounding in athletics as a teen where we truly learnt stretching and mobility and injury prevention. We need to teach our active kids this how to prepare. It is very important and i’m sorry but you can’t say “oh they’re only little ones, they don’t need to do all that” and be surprised if they get injuries doing big kids sport.
4. Rest sometimes. In all sports rest is every bit as important as training (mentally also). Us parents need to take charge sometimes and enforce a rest. Our little ones will be better for it.
I love sport, my kids love sport, I intend to teach them some good habits early so they can always enjoy it.
Congratulations to Rhys who came first in the first round of Blokfest (see previous post) and all the craggy island youth team who have started the Winter indoor season with a bang with some great results. Keep up the good work kids, parents and coaches!