I treat a lot of child athletes in my Chiropractic office. I recently re-read an article dealing with biomechanical concerns in children. The health and exercise craze has put increased stress not only on adults, but on children as well. Parents are out jogging on asphalt and concrete surfaces with their young children, Soccer and Teeball teams are recruiting kids as young as four years old. Tai Kwan Do starts children as early as three. While these programs are excellent for teaching values like sportsmanship and the value of exercise, there are problems which can occur that parents should be aware of.
Young children who are athletes must rmember that they are growing and their bones are not fully formed so Chiropractic care can help them grow straight. Fusion of the bones is not complete until almost 18 years of age and from the ages of four to almost 14, major joint surfaces are being defined. Also realize that most children have loose ligaments and are very flexible so any activity stressing the muscular structures to the point of fatigue should be supported. By supported, most podiatrists and chiropractors agree that orthotics can be useful for children who are engaged in extensive athletics.
3-6 year olds normally are knock-kneed and their feet tend to roll inward. This should change by the time they are 6. If it doesn’t then there is a biomechanical problem with the feet and an orthotic can be useful. They may not outgrow these problems. If all children did, then there wouldn’t be so many mechanical problems in adults. Go to our website at www.southingtonchiropractor.com for more information about children and our office.
To avoid these problems, exercise should be on a soft surface whenever possible. If they must jog on hard surfaces, they should use shock-absorbing material in their shoes. Good running shoes are a must and they should be checked frequently for wear. Just because the child can still wear the shoes and haven’t out grown them doesn’t mean that the shoes are doing their job. Your pediatrician, chiropractor, physical therapist or podiatrist can tell you if the shoes are good. By continuing to use poor shoes or non-shock absorbing inserts, damage can be done to the heel and other bones in the foot as well as the knee causing Osgood-Schlatter disease. Low back pain can also be caused by poor foot mechanics and can be improved with orthotics.
Another important factor is to make sure your child does not participate in sports when sick. I know this sounds obvious but illness can further weaken muscles. And since a child has increased flexibility, this weakness can further stretch supportive ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. This will exacerbate pre-existing biomechanical problems and cause bone stress.
One last tip. All injuries should be treated aggressively. I do not believe there is such a thing as “growing pains”. Children can have injuries the same as adults. And because they are growing so fast, small injuries can have big consequences as the child grows. Any injury needs proper nutrition to heal so vitamin supplementation is a must. Remember, as the twig is bent so grows the tree.