TODAY'S SCIENCE PIECE DOESN'T TAKE A DEEP DIVE INTO RESEARCH, mostly because the research has yet to be conducted. At least that which studies the youngest group of future runners.
However, for runners who wonder about including and encouraging children in the sport, Amanda Loudin’s article for MotivRunning.com, “Kids and Running” provides some guidance. Parents may be in this category, but also loving relatives, friends, neighbors, and youth fitness program leaders. As adults, we might look back over time and recognize how much we have enjoyed and benefited from running. Perhaps we wished someone had urged us to begin much earlier in life.
The last portion of the article contains the most important consideration in this area, I think. Throughout my entire medical life similar words have been used with regard to the care of the young. “Children are not small adults” indicates a 2003 position statement quoted by Loudin from a “Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine” article on marathon running. “Their anatomy and physiology are developing and not fully mature” it continues. Adults must be mindful of the risk of injury to bones, cartilage, and growth plates in growing children.
With that caution put forth, the advice in Loudin’s article makes perfect sense.
Below are some bullet-points of suggestions provided in the piece for parents and others hoping to encourage running as a potential lifelong passion in the younger set. The article itself presents a fuller discussion and is woth reading.
* Keep it fun
* Make it a kid-kid, age-peer experience
* Limit mileage especially below the age of 10
* Discourage single-sport concentration and intense training
* Encourage participation in different athletic activities
* Empower kids to take the lead in their own training and competition
The AAP guideline reference in the Loudin article was issued almost 15 years ago. A search of the medical literature for updated guidance generated an article, “Pediatric Running Injuries” published in 2010. The introduction of the piece acknowledges that as participation of children in athletics and running in particular increases, there has been a significant increase in overuse injuries.
“Current guidelines for overuse injury prevention”, it says, are based on “consensus and expert opinion” and that “further research is needed to provide” guidelines that are “evidence-based”. It also explains that the youngest age group in the few research studies that address the specific topic of running injuries in children age 5-18 years, with reliable data, is HIGH SCHOOL cross country runners. Which means there is no similar research data from the younger groups on which to form guidelines.
Most of the “Pediatric Running Injuries” article was dedicated to discussing MEDICAL CARE FOR conditions that occur in growing athletes as well those affecting all age groups. There are sections on marathon running in children, overtraining and burnout (known as overtraining syndrome) in young athletes, and the need for additional research.
On the topic of marathon training the article indicates that the AAP revised its earlier position, “acknowledging the lack of evidence to support or refute the safety of children participating in marathon running”. A “well-designed weekly training program that ensured safe running conditions and provided appropriate education on endurance training” was recommended. There were additional comments, but no hard and fast rules set down that define a clear path to follow. Mostly trainers and coaches are urged to keep the overall health of children at the “forefront of priorities.”
Included in the piece were American Academy of Pediatricians guidelines to prevent overtraining, overuse injuries, and burnout in young athletes that provided actual numbers!
(1) Encourage athletes to take at least 1 to 2 days off from athletic training each week
(2) Advise athletes to not increase their weekly training regimen by more than 10% per week.
(3) Recommend that athletes take 2 to 3 months off from a specific sport each year to allow for physical and mental recovery, and to work on strength and conditioning
(4) Emphasize that sports participation should be for fun, sportsmanship, safety, and skill acquisition
(5) Be alert to signs and symptoms of burnout or overtraining, including nonspecific muscle or joint problems, fatigue, or poor academic performance
Of all the information presented in this scientific piece, the above 5 recommendations seem to be the most helpful, and can be applied to encourage injury-free athletic training in all age groups.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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