Over 35 million kids are engaged in organized sports activities aged 6-18 years old.
With this statistic, many parents are looking for that edge to help their child play first string. Yet a pertinent question may arise also - Will my child get injured in sports? I spoke with Dr. Jeffrey M. Mjaanes, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to discuss the trend of sports training programs for children.
1. What is the best age for my child to start weight training?
Studies have shown that resistance training can be safe down to 6-8 years of age. In the younger age groups, the focus should be on having fun and proper technique. Activities should be with light resistance bands, exercise balls or body weight exercises. In older age groups, they may then begin with light weights and gradually increase the resistance but again the most important factor is proper technique and form. Exercise sessions should be 2-3 times/week, should focus on 2 body parts each session and should be supervised by a coach qualified in training adolescents. The athlete should aim for 2-3 exercises per body part, 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions each. Be sure to train all large muscle groups, agonists and antagonists (ie: biceps and triceps, hamstrings and quadriceps). Children and teens should increase resistance or weight when they can perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions comfortably and while maintaining proper form, as opposed to following arbitrary guidelines. In older adolescence (i.e.: age 16+), athletes may follow more adult regimens but to minimize injuries proper form is still important.
2. What is the best age for my child to start speed and agility training?
There is no "set" age to start speed or agility training (often called "movement training"). Usually these training programs start in the pre-teen years, around 10-12 years of age, although some start younger. The most important aspect at any age is having trained, qualified coaches guide the training. Coaches need to understand basic patterns of movement, developmental stages of young athletes and movement analysis. Young athletes should never be pushed to where they feel exhausted or uncomfortable.
With the childhood obesity rates climbing and at all time highs, it's incredible to see the development of sports training in our children. But keep in mind that children and teen bodies are developing into adulthood and these precautions should be considered.
Dr. Jeffrey M. Mjaanes, MD was at The American Academy of Pediatrics first-ever Healthy Children Conference this past month, featuring experts from around the country discussing the latest developments in children’s health on topics ranging from breastfeeding to bullying.