Should chil­dren un­der 10 play con­tact sport?

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Mar­garita Gure­vich & Justin Bal­bir

First, we must de­fine con­tact sports. Un­der the um­brella of con­tact sports we can out­line two spe­cific cat­e­gories:

• Full con­tact sports: these are sports where ath­letes are meant to in­flu­en­tially strike their op­po­nents and this in­cludes sports such as rugby and mixed mar­tial arts.

• Lim­ited con­tact sports: these are sports which have a high prob­a­bil­ity of oc­ca­sional, un­in­ten­tional con­tact such as bas­ket­ball and soc­cer.

For the sake of this dis­cus­sion, we will fo­cus on the ‘full con­tact’ group. The rea­son why high im­pact sports can be es­pe­cially dangerous

in young chil­dren is that they are at higher risk of sus­tain­ing in­jury. This can be due to: their im­ma­ture abil­ity to as­sess risk, a lack of skill in ex­e­cut­ing tack­les, bumps and strikes, the fact that their bones are still grow­ing and strength­en­ing well into the 20’s and the im­pli­ca­tions of head strikes and con­cus­sion.

Rest as­sured, most gov­ern­ing bod­ies of var­i­ous sport­ing codes are well aware that chil­dren need to be grad­u­ally in­tro­duced to con­tact sports and there­fore rules are made to re­flect this. Take Aus­tralian Rules foot­ball for ex­am­ple. In the un­der eight age group, there is strictly no con­tact al­lowed. Un­der nine/ten-year-old, al­lows for a mod­i­fied ver­sion of tack­ling but strictly no bump­ing. Fi­nally, once tack­ling skills are de­vel­oped, nor­mal tack­ling is al­lowed in the un­der eleven/twelve-year-old com­pe­ti­tions.

Health wise, play­ing sport has an end­less amount of ben­e­fits for chil­dren. Obe­sity is fright­en­ingly preva­lent in to­day’s young pop­u­la­tion, with a quar­ter of chil­dren believed to be clas­si­fied as over­weight or obese. One ma­jor rea­son for this statis­tic is a lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity helps to as­sist in healthy weight main­te­nance, bone and mus­cle de­vel­op­ment, car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness, im­prov­ing co­or­di­na­tion and a plethora of other ben­e­fits. Out­door sports pro­vide good op­por­tu­ni­ties for ap­pro­pri­ate sun ex­po­sure. While care should be taken to pre­vent over­ex­po­sure and avoid sun­burn, be­ing out in the sun is im­per­a­tive for the biosyn­the­sis of vi­ta­min D which plays a crit­i­cal role in main­tain­ing health and disease pre­ven­tion. Se­den­tary life­style and sun avoid­ance are com­mon prob­lems for chil­dren and ac­tive in­volve­ment in





sports ac­tiv­i­ties is the ma­jor fac­tor to over­come this neg­a­tive in­flu­ence.

From a psy­choso­cial per­spec­tive, ex­er­cise is very im­por­tant for a child’s de­vel­op­ment. Ex­er­cise can help with re­duc­ing the risk of de­pres­sion, im­prov­ing fo­cus aca­dem­i­cally and aid in brain de­vel­op­ment. The ben­e­fits are fur­ther en­hanced when par­tic­i­pat­ing in team sports. A team en­vi­ron­ment can as­sist in teach­ing a child dis­ci­pline, learn­ing ap­pro­pri­ate so­cial be­hav­iour, im­prov­ing so­cial con­nec­tions and pro­vid­ing a sense of be­long­ing.

A num­ber of pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures can be taken to re­duce the like­li­hood of chil­dren sus­tain­ing in­juries while play­ing con­tact sports. Some im­por­tant fac­tors are mak­ing sure that the child has ad­e­quate core and gen­eral mus­cle strength, good range of joint move­ment and

well es­tab­lished bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion. Clin­i­cal Pi­lates pro­grams de­signed specif­i­cally for chil­dren can greatly help with this.

Full con­tact sports are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with high in­ci­dence of trau­ma­tism such as sprains, bone frac­tures, tears of lig­a­ments, con­cus­sions etc. some of which could po­ten­tially lead to se­vere health con­se­quences. This should be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when choos­ing the type of sport for the child. Kids with an as­thenic type of con­sti­tu­tion, light weight, poor bal­ance and co­or­di­na­tion are more prone to sus­tain sports in­juries while over­weight con­di­tions might limit their mo­bil­ity and make them less com­pet­i­tive in dynamic ac­tiv­i­ties. Al­low­ing them to ex­pe­ri­ence a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties, will be the best way for a child to find their per­sonal pref­er­ence and they may even take a lik­ing to sev­eral dif­fer­ent sports. It is im­por­tant for par­ents to as­cer­tain what the rules are for a spe­cific com­pe­ti­tion be­fore en­rolling their chil­dren in a par­tic­u­lar sport.

As with the Aus­tralian Rules ex­am­ple above, mea­sures will gen­er­ally be put in place to re­duce the risk of in­jury to chil­dren. If there is some level of un­cer­tainty, or there are no clear rules in place, then it is best to err on the side of cau­tion and find a com­pe­ti­tion which has the child’s best in­ter­ests in mind.

Mar­garita Gure­vich is Se­nior Phys­io­ther­a­pist and uses Clin­i­cal Pi­lates, SCENAR Ther­apy & other ev­i­dence-based tech­niques, in­clud­ing Real Time Ul­tra­sound and McKen­zie Treat­ment. Mar­garita spe­cialises in sports in­juries, women’s health (in­clud­ing in­con­ti­nence) and gas­troin­testi­nal is­sues. Mar­garita may be con­tacted via her web­site.

Justin Bal­bir has a Bach­e­lor of Health Sciences & Mas­ters of Phys­io­ther­apy Prac­tice. He has worked for five years as a sports trainer for the Ajax Foot­ball Club, with ex­pe­ri­ence in soft­tis­sue mas­sage & in­jury man­age­ment. Jus­tine spe­cial­izes in man­ual ther­apy & sports in­juries and may be con­tacted via web­site.

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