Total Body Balance

How to tell if your child is overtraining

If you’ve noticed changes in your child recently, such as a lack of appetite, increased moodiness or outbursts, a lack of enthusiasm generally, poor sleeping habits, constant lethargy or being more susceptible to the cold and flu, it’s probably worth taking a closer look.

With the popularity and prevalence of sport in today’s society, children are starting organised activities earlier and training harder at younger ages. Alongside this, there is often a competitive aspect and children can feel pressured to perform better to achieve sporting results. More often than not, parents, coaches and children embark on a training regime that involves repetitive training to perfect a skill or activity, such as a tennis serve, the ability to bowl the perfect ball in cricket, or developing strength to cope with tackling in football.

As physiotherapists, we are observing these situations more regularly and are concerned that overtraining is becoming a more prevalent phenomenon.

Overtraining can be defined as an athlete being pushed to the limits, both physically and mentally, for an extended period of time. And while an occassional hard training session can be tolerated by many young bodies, the resulting impact over a longer term on a growing child’s body can lead to serious overuse injuries to growing muscles, bones, joints and tendons; not to mention a variety of psychological effects.

Here are some of the early signs and symptoms to look out for:

–          Slower times in distance sports

–          Deterioration in execution of sports plays or routines

–          Decreased ability to achieve training goals

–          Lack of motivation to practice

–          Getting tired easily

–          Irritability and unwillingness to cooperate with teammates

At Beleura Health Solutions we remind parents and coaches need to be mindful of any changes in their child’s performance. Pushing children to train harder and for longer periods as a result of poor performance is only likely to worsen the situation.

As a guideline, an ideal amount of training for a growing child is not more than 15-20 hours a week.

As more children present with overtraining signs, sporting bodies are taking a bigger interest in promoting and ensuring children train in a safe and healthy manner, since it’s in the best long term interest of the child, the family and the sport itself. This information is usually sourced on the website of the relevant governing body (e.g. Cricket Australia).

So talk to your child, look for the warning signs listed above, and take an objective look at their total activity hours per week. If you think your child might be overtraining, visit your local doctor or health professional to have a check-up and together you can tailor an appropriate training schedule that works for everyone.

To view a short video on the topic from physiotherapist Antony Hirst, click below.

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