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Wasted Youth

Posted by wmagnus On March - 10 - 2010

Age against the machine is usually about longevity and healthy living from the perspective of how adults can make a difference in their own lives. Age management doesn’t just begin in adulthood, though. The wages of childhood and adolescence are something we all carry forward.

The CDC has taken the first stand against childhood obesity which has risen to almost 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11. Teens have it nearly as bad. These kids are at very real long term risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and arthritis. Some already show signs of disease such as poor glucose tolerance, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative. A study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2010 Conference on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism showed that physical fitness was directly correlated with academic achievement.The study followed kids from 5th to 7th grade. The kids who were fit the whole time did the best on standardized testing. Those who started out unfit but became so by the 7th grade followed up second. Fit in 5th but losing fitness by 7th followed and the fully unfit kids finished last in academic performance. “The take-home message from this study is that we want our kids to be fit as long as possible and it will show in their academic performance,” Lesley A. Cottrell, Ph.D., presenting researcher, said. “But if we can intervene on those children who are not necessarily fit and get them to physically fit levels, we may also see their academic performance increase.”

Pushing fitness too far has a downside too. At this week’s 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), two studies are being presented that show that youth athletic injuries are on the rise and having lasting impact on sports participants.

One study found that 25% of youth baseball players are suffering elbow pain and 15% of them have suffered real bone or cartilage injuries. For pitchers it’s much worse with bone and cartilage injuries climbing over 50%. These are largely preventable but can result in serious long term problems if not treated including both sports career ending injuries and lifetime pain.

Lengthening adolescent athletic schedules are creating problems too. “More adolescents are participating in year-round sports without seasonal breaks, or they are playing on multiple teams simultaneously,” says Thomas M. DeBerardino, MD. “This increased exposure means there will continue to be growing numbers of significant musculoskeletal injuries, both traumatic and chronic overuse.”

For teens this can mean problems both now and down the road. Treating them as miniature adults both in their training schedules and in treatment for injury can result in stunted growth, arthritis and a lifetime of pain and loss of function.

Keeping kids healthy is a key to having them age against the machine as they get older but pushing them too hard can have just the opposite effect.

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