Teach kids to listen if their bodies say 'I hurt'

September 29, 1992|By Linell Smith

Although parents should worry whether their youngsters are getting enough exercise -- the goal is 30 minutes four or five times a week -- they should not worry about sports injuries for children under the age of 10, says Neil MacDonald, physical therapist and director of Union Memorial Hospital's sports medicine centers in Baltimore and in Bel Air.

"In general, sports for young kids are very safe. Young kids are not big enough, strong enough, fast enough, or heavy enough to cause damage very often. Once you get to middle school and high school you begin to see injuries."

He advises parents to pay attention, however, to a child who favors one legover another when playing outside. And if the child continues to complain of a chronic problem, such as shins or heels that hurt, parents should seek advice at a sports medicine center.

Severs Disease (affecting the heels) and Osgood-Schlatters Disease (affecting the knees) are two "growing pain" diseases which end when children are skeletally mature, Mr. MacDonald says.

"Although there's really not any sport that's a problem for young kids, our concern is that they get good coaching," Mr. MacDonald says. "Technique can be a cause for injury as can equipment. Say, if the shoulder pads don't fit well."

Parents should also make sure they don't push their youngsters too hard,says Nancy Friday, associate executive director of the Towson Family YMCA.

xTC "Children at that age are pretty smart: If something hurts, they stop. They don't push themselves through pain like adults do," Ms. Friday says. "Kids will stop and ask 'Can I get a drink of water?' It's important to let our children develop the skills of listening to their bodies."

It's also important to get young children used to warming up and stretching before beginning each sports session.

"We're dealing with Moms and Dads as the coaches most of the time," Mr. MacDonald says. "We hope they'll take the time to educate themselves."

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