More pre-teens and adolescents are practicing their chosen sports year-round than ever before. Many hope to make that varsity team, earn an athletic scholarship to college, or even to kickstart a future professional career. During puberty, there are specific risks involved that face these youngsters. As their bodies mature (around ages 11-14 for girls, and ages 13-15 for boys), their athletic performance may change in positive or negative ways.
As a young person’s body increases in size and muscle strength, there may be a temporary decline in balance skills and body control, as their sudden increases in height and weight affect their center of gravity. This is particularly evident among figure skaters, gymnasts, divers, and basketball players. Coaches are aware of the effects of adolescent growth spurts, and can help reduce clumsiness by incorporating specific aspects of training into their practice sessions.
Playing Sports During Puberty: Why Prevention Is Key
When it comes to avoiding sports injuries during puberty, prevention is key. Because of the increased risk of injury during puberty, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages specializing in one sport before puberty.
Some of the most common sports injuries during an adolescent growth spurt include:
- Growth plate injuries: Children’s bones have a section of cartilage which eventually turns to solid bone once they are finished growing. This cartilage is called a growth plate, and it is more delicate than surrounding bone and tissues. Injury to the growth plate can inhibit proper growth. These injuries can be caused by falls or other acute injuries. They may also be caused by overuse.
- ACL injuries: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the main ligaments that provides stability and flexibility to each knee. ACL injury risk increases from 12 to 13 years old in girls and from 14 to 15 years old in boys.
- Overuse injuries: Stress fractures and tendonitis are a risk during puberty and are a cause of repetitive training, such as overhand throwing or tumbling during gymnastics. Without treatment, these injuries can get worse.
Fortunately, Puberty Is Temporary
If you’re a parent or coach, stay positive and encouraging during an adolescent’s growth spurt. If your child is being yelled at by a coach who isn’t well-versed in the nuances of puberty, it can discourage your child, who might give up sports altogether. Remember, though, that your job isn’t to ensure your child is a gold medalist at the Olympics, it’s to make sure your child loves physical activity to ensure they become healthy adults and make fitness a way of life.
Need help with sports injuries? Contact ProFysio at (732) 812-5200.