Have you ever noticed that kids who were previously great at sports seem to go through an awkward, clumsy phase when they reach puberty and go through associated growth spurts? When you think about it, it's not a great mystery — all that extra length and weight actually changes their center of gravity, and it can take their brains a while to get used to that. While the bones grow fast, muscles take a while to catch up, and may be tight for a while. Again, this explains some of the clumsiness.
So, puberty can affect teens' performance in the sports they already played before, but how does sport affect puberty?
Watch Out! Sports Are Good For You, But...
Nearly everywhere you go, you'll get the message that physical activity is crucial to good health. Make no mistake, you are getting the right message. But not all of it. The bones of people who are still growing have what's called growth plates, the bits where growth actually occurs. These are more vulnerable than the rest of the bone. The puberty-induced clumsiness we mentioned, combined with the fact that the high school years are often the time when someone really gets serious about athletics, means that these growth plates are at risk of injury. What's more, bones just seem to be weaker during growth spurts.
Sports injuries cause around eight percent of teens to drop out of physical activity each year — perhaps for life. To prevent this, teens can benefit from using equipment to stabilize their joints, doing exercises that reduce the risk of injury, valuing skill practice above actual hours put in, and even playing with modified rules. Does that sound like babysitting to you? I understand. You'll need that body for the rest of your life though, and I presume you'd like it to remain strong and uninjured.
What Else Do You Need To Watch Out For?
Your muscles need a chance to recover after training, or you'll never gain the bulk that you're probably after. If you're training over 20 hours a week, your body won't get this chance. The moral of the story is simple: train, but do not over train. If in doubt, consult your doctor, or to start with, even an athletics forum on the internet, for advice.
Another thing we need to talk about is sleep. Without proper sleep, and for teenagers that means a solid eight to 10 hours a night, your body is going to be adversely affected. I'm not just talking about being tired, either. It's during sleep that your bones grow! This may seem less than relevant to the question we're discussing, but if your sports schedule and your academic responsibilities "conspire" to ensure you can never get a proper night's sleep, then yes, your growth can be in jeopardy. Make sure that doesn't happen.
Yes, teens going through puberty can work out, even when they are undergoing growth spurts. However, they need to be careful to feed their bodies with good food, get enough sleep, do what they can to avoid injury (including overuse injury) and give their body the chance to recover from training.
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