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Weighty Problems in Oversized Young Athletes?



Over the next little while, I will be taking a few days off and so I will be reposting some of my favourite past posts. The following article was first posted on Dec 2, 2009:

According to a paper by Malachy McHugh from the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, Lenox Hill Hospital, US, published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, overweight and obese adolescents are more than twice as likely to be injured in sports and other physical activities compared with non-overweight and non-obese adolescents. Moreover, obese adolescent athletes are more than three times as likely to sustain an ankle sprain compared with normal weight adolescent athletes.

The increased risk of injury associated with being overweight or obese may in part be due to low physical activity levels and therefore promotion of physical activity for children can provide neuromuscular training that may be beneficial in decreasing injury risk associated with general play and sports. In addition, specific neuromuscular training interventions, such as balance training, may also help reduce the risk of injury associated with overweight and obesity.

Importantly, injured overweight young athletes tend to have more prolonged recovery periods than non-overweight young athletes.

According to McHugh, early aggressive treatment of swelling with physical modalities, prolonged non-weight bearing, limited period of immobilization, and regular repetitive passive joint motion are all indicated for the overweight young athlete with a lower extremity joint injury.

AMS
Frankfurt, Germany

6 Comments

  1. Thanks Arya.

    This exemplifies the notion that physical activity is more difficult for overweight individuals. In addition to more injuries is a heightened sense of excess weight and feelings of being ‘really out of shape’.

    In the beginning, physical activity acts as negative reinforcement. Overweight people beginning to get more active get the aches, pains, a heightened sense of their excess weight and unhealthiness.

    At my clinic I’ve found that during this initial phase, an incredible amount of support and encouragement and reassurance that the benefits of exercise will soon outweigh the sacrifices is critical.

    I’d be interested to hear from others how they ‘hand hold’ through this critical phase….

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  2. Another thing to consider: many of us were “klutzy” kids. In my case, there was some undiagnosed brain damage causing ataxia. My body does exactly what I tell it to, plus or minus 10%. I suspect that if you did even a cursory neurological exam on these kids you would find a staggering level of mild neurological dysfunction.

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  3. Not so much staggering level as staggering percentage of kids are affected by mild neurological dysfunction. That also leads to misstepping, and more foot and ankle injuries because of the coordination issues.

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  4. I’m aware about this already, but nonetheless there are several useful bits that completed the picture for me, regards!

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  5. This doesn’t make any sense. You say that heavier young athletes are more likely to get injured, and then you say,

    The increased risk of injury associated with being overweight or obese may in part be due to low physical activity levels and therefore promotion of physical activity for children can provide neuromuscular training that may be beneficial in decreasing injury risk associated with general play and sports.

    That makes no sense. If they’re athletes, then they’re active. And yes, it’s entirely possible to be heavy, very physically active, strong, and in good shape. I think the higher injury rates among young athletes who are classified as obese are more likely because most young athletes in the ‘obese’ category play football, and football is a violent sport with a lot of associated injuries.

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  6. Dee, being an “athlete” doesn’t necessarily mean being active, and all athletes are not similarly active. Most football defensemen for example, are actually out there being ACTIVE for only a few minutes per game. They are there to be large and immovable, not to run marathons.

    There are a lot of people who seem to think that just by putting the stamp of “athlete” on someone, that it validates every single thing about that person’s lifestyle. “Athletes” can be obese, so obesity is just fine. Well, athletes also concuss the living bejeezus out of themselves a lot and undergo enormous amounts of orthopedic surgery because they are putting their bodies under strain that a body was never designed to tolerate. Many “athletes” can’t even walk when they are in their 50s because there isn’t a non-titanium joint anywhere in their bodies below the waist. Others are reduced to counting on their fingers due to repeated brain injury.

    Just because there exists one particular sport on Earth in which a given person’s body will allow them to have a role to play does not automatically say that everything they do and everything about them is golden and above question.

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