Growing Bones and Ligaments
The immature bones of children are different from those of adults. The "growth plates" in children's bones do not finish closing until age 15-17 in boys and 13-15 in girls. When stressed, these plates are more susceptible to injury than the tendons and ligaments that support the joints. Ligaments tend to "give" before bones in adults.
Podiatric physicians warn repetitive overuse can cause inflammation of the growth plates. They advise parents to promote diverse physical activities for their children rather than one sport. This is especially important with individual sports such as running, gymnastics, and tennis, which require long hours of practice.
Statistics show children who concentrate on just one sport for long hours at a time are setting themselves up for injuries. Because of the susceptibility of bones with open growth centers to overuse injuries, sponsors of the Boston Marathon recently increased the minimum participation age from 16 to 18.
A sports medicine podiatrist can offer a thorough examination of the entire lower extremity and identify a leg length imbalance, weakness, or biomechanical imbalances that may need to be addressed to prevent injuries on the athletic field.
Copyright 2008, American Podiatric Medical Association, Inc.