Youth athletics boost bone health

March 26, 2013

Topic: injury prevention for children

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It isn't news that physical activity is a good thing for kids. A recent study from Skane University in Sweden reveals that besides the more obvious role exercise plays in preventing childhood obesity and maintaining general health, physical activity also helps improve bone health in youth, potentially improving future injury prevention for children

Increased bone health in active kids
The study states that kids who engage in physical activity are less likely to experience orthopaedic fractures when they get older than those who do not. Peak bone mass increases in children who are active regularly, enabling them to ward off bone-breakage.

The study focused on 2,300 7- to 9?-year-old children. Everyday, 362 girls and 446 boys underwent 40 minutes of physical education at school, while 800 girls and 800 boys did 60 minutes over the course of a week. 

After carefully surveying the children and accounting for any orthopaedic injury, researchers found that the number of bone fractures amongst these groups was relatively equal. 

It was in the long-term orthopaedic health of the kids that physical activity correlated with bone strength. The bone mineral density of the children who exercised daily was reportedly higher than that of kids who did not stay active regularly. 

Encouraging youth athletics
These findings underline the importance of children getting adequate exercise. The key in doing this, according to an article by Edward Wojtys, M.D., editor-in-chief of Sports Health journal, is by making athletics more appealing for youth. 

"To get children interested and to stay engaged in sports, we need to keep them fun while nurturing them as they grow and gain athletic skills," Wojtys said. 

Wojtys noted the importance of getting all children, not merely those who are athletically inclined, to participate in physical activities. It is when kids who do not participate in athletics frequently are overlooked that they turn away from physical fitness and toward television, video games and other sedentary pastimes. 

Short-term risk for long-term benefits
Naturally, youth athletes are at risk of experiencing common sports injuries. According to a 2007 report by the University of Pennsylvania, on average, high-school athletic injuries alone result in 500,000 doctors visits a year. 

Despite the immediate consequences that inevitably occur in association with sports - the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine reported at their 2009 meeting that about 40 percent of all sports-related injuries in hospitals happen to children between ages 5 and 14 - the long-term orthopaedic benefits of athletics should encourage adolescents to participate in them.

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