, Newburyport, MA


November 26, 2013

Check with doctor about strength training for kids

To the editor:

In her column, “Strength Training for kids: a guide (Nov. 22), Kate McKay does not offer information as to her educational level or whether she has any medical training. Though I am not a physician or expert, much of what she recommends in her column goes against everything I have ever been told by pediatricians, coaches and fitness professionals.

It is my understanding children, until they reach the ages of 10-12 years old, can do serious long-term damage to joints by weight training. The cartilage in elbows, knees and shoulders does not fully harden until this age range. Studies commissioned by coaches such as Cal Ripkin now suggest many high school sports injuries are related to over-active use of joint muscles in younger children. Others suggest these widespread injuries are related to weight training too early, as this tends to stretch softer cartilage and prevent it from forming correctly. My son is 13. He is a very active young athlete. He has trained at two athletic training facilities and been told by both he should not lift weights until he is 14. Over 35 years ago, my high school football coach warned us against lifting weights until the summer of our 13th year. My son’s pediatrician concurs and has warned us not to let him engage in weight training until this year.

The question of stunted growth is no longer taken seriously by many. But the question of long-term damage to forming cartilage leading to congenital weakness and further serious injury later in high school has become a very real concern among physicians, trainers and coaches. I would caution against taking the advice of someone without medical training when deciding whether children should begin weigh training before the middle school years. Ask a doctor.

Bob Ross


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