What Are the Dangers of Weight Bearing Exercises on Kids?
When properly executed, children receive several benefits from weight-training workouts, including improved strength and fitness, flexibility and sports performance. If proper training procedures aren’t followed, there are danger risks that can result in injuries to young bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. If your child shows an interest in weight training, seek the guidance of a professional trainer who is experienced with children.
Growth Plate Damage
Bone growth takes place in the growth plates, located at the opposite ends of each bone. Once a child reaches adulthood, the growth plates on his bones harden. While your child is growing, however, his growth plates are extremely soft and highly susceptible to injury. According the American College of Sports Medicine, damage to the bone growth plates can affect your child’s growth potential 1. To avoid this, children should not execute “explosive” lifts, a type of lifting that is performed as quickly and powerfully as possible. Growth plate damage can also occur if children attempt to lift weights to “terminal failure,” an attempt to work a muscle to total exhaustion.
Strains and Sprains
Muscle strains and ligament sprains are two of the most common dangers of weight-bearing exercises for kids. Muscle strains occur when the muscle becomes overstretched, and generally happens when a child overexerts a specific muscle, which can happen when lifting more weight than usual. Sprains are similar to muscle strains, but occur in the ligaments, which are the connective tissues that hold the bones together. Both muscle strains and ligament sprains can occur with abnormal or unnatural movement, such as suddenly twisting a wrist. The best way to avoid strains and sprains during weight-bearing exercise is to have your child do warm-up stretches before she begins working out.
Tears and Ruptures
Similar to strains but much more serious, muscle tears occur when muscle fibers pull apart from each other, literally creating a separation in the muscle tissue. Similarly, tendons, which connect the muscles to the bones, can rupture. Whereas strains will usually heal in a few weeks, the ACSM states muscle tears and tendon ruptures can take months to fully heal -- and may require surgery in extreme cases. As with strains, the best way to avoid tears and ruptures is to have your child perform a thorough stretching routine to properly loosen and warm his muscles before he engages in any weight-bearing exercises.
Dangers from impact injuries are a serious concern for children when performing weight-bearing exercises. If lifting free weights, your child can be injured should a weight fall on her during exercise, resulting in anything from a minor bruise to a broken bone. To avoid impact injuries during exercise, children must have proper training and not be allowed to undertake weight-bearing exercises with free weights without supervision. Exercise machines, which are designed to guide and hold the weight steady throughout the exercise, are a safer alternative for children, removing much of the danger from impact injuries while working out. Children should always be supervised when using an exercise machine.
- ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer; American College of Sports Medicine
- Los Angeles Times: Go Ahead, Let Those Kids Lift Weights; James S. Fell
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images