In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Extremity Division Leader Eric Chaconas discusses the benefits & risks of youth weightlifting, dispelling many common myths regarding the negative effects that lifting weights can have on children.
Take a listen or check out the episode transcription below.
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00:00 ERIC CHACONAS
Morning everybody, Eric Chaconas here for the PT on Ice Daily Show. I am part of our Extremity Management team along with Lindsay Huey and Mark Gallant. Extremity Management is our really basic general orthopedic course that covers so many different conditions that you see of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, hip, knee, foot, ankle. So it’s two days, heavy lab, lots of fun, lots of movement, tons and tons of you performing the actual current best exercises that you would utilize in the clinic for all these different injuries and pain conditions that we see. As well as some of the most modern and evidence based manual therapy techniques that are utilized for all those same conditions. So we’ve got a number of upcoming open courses. Mark will be in Amarillo, Texas September 9th and 10th and then in Cincinnati, Ohio September 16th. And then we also have one in Rochester, Minnesota October 7th. So if you go to our website, PTOnice.com, click on live courses, you’ll see Extremity Management down there in the second row. And that’s how you can find out more details about that course.
01:31 WEIGHTLIFTING & KIDS
So today we’re going to get into this topic of weightlifting and kids. And so this comes from some of the experiences that I’ve had in coaching youth sports and in training clinically. What I did early in my career was performance based training for youth golfers. So I’ve had this conversation and then really just experiences I’ve had with my own kids and friends in the community here. I’ve had this conversation about kids and weightlifting with a lot of people, a lot of people over the years. And it is amazing to me how often you hear people say, I don’t, I don’t, it’s not a good idea for a kid to lift weights because it can stunt your growth. That is like saying the earth is flat. That is one of the most outdated, inaccurate statements that can be made. What we know now is that that is absolutely false. There is no difference in risk of, and what you’re talking about are growth plate injuries, right? If you say stunt your growth, you’re talking about the epiphyseal plate. You’re talking about a growth plate injury being more at risk or having higher prevalence in a young athlete or young individual who participates in weightlifting versus one who does not. So we’re talking about pre-adolescence. We’re talking about middle school age kids. We’re talking about even elementary school age kids. And I don’t think a lot of people are making that argument in high school age kids.
04:52 BARBELL WEIGHTLIFTING FOR YOUTH
Usually most people are pretty accepting of the idea of weightlifting in high school. But where they push back on you is in middle school and elementary school. And so I think that’s totally wrong. I think that’s inaccurate. Now, again, it’s a case by case basis and it’s based on the kid and their maturity level and their ability to, you know, pay attention and be coachable and be well behaved enough to properly, you know, be safe. But for the most part, the argument that it could stunt your growth and that there is a higher risk of growth plate injury is completely unfounded. So that came from like old wives tales. And then in the 60s, there was a few case reports that show growth plate injuries. They talk about growth plate injuries being a little bit of a higher risk in young weightlifters versus those who are not. That’s been completely refuted since then. There’s well over a dozen studies that show that there is no difference in the general population, pre-adolescent population versus the pre-adolescent population who participates in weightlifting. There’s no difference in growth plate injury rates. So there’s no more risk of lifting weights than there is playing on the playground or playing soccer or running around with your friends playing tag. There’s literally no greater risk with weightlifting. So I’m specifically talking about barbell lifts because I think a lot of people, here’s the other issue. People will say, because like resistance training is promoted by the American Academy of Pediatricians, like eight years old kids should start resistance training. But, you know, they’re talking about body weight exercises. They’re talking about a lot of different stuff. And not most of organizations, most of these people are still pushing back on the idea of barbell weightlifting. I am saying barbell weightlifting is critically important for youth development, for the young athlete. And just for general, you know, it’s really tough today with kids with smartphones and year-round sports, and they’re getting pushed in all these different directions. I mean, everybody’s, you know, playing travel, baseball and travel soccer, and it’s year-round and it’s the same sport year-round. And we’re not doing a good job at developing well-rounded athletes. And we’re not doing a good job developing foundational strength and speed and power. And that’s where weightlifting really has a strong, important role. And so that’s what I’m saying. What I’m saying is we’ve got it all wrong in that we are pushing these kids to play sports like crazy and specialize and focus on the sport so much, and we’re not spending enough time focusing on training. They need to be trained. That’s really what is really important. And so what age is appropriate? I mean, that’s really a key question. What age is appropriate and what exercises are appropriate? I don’t think there should be a limit to the age. I think it’s individualized for the kid. When my kids, when my son specifically, when he was in third grade and my daughter not that far behind him, third grade is when they started back squatting and deadlifting. So I bought a 15-pound barbell when they were really young, about a 15-pound barbell, and taught them all the foundation, most of the foundational lifts. And this is one-on-one coaching. This is a very controlled and safe environment. I have not done well in group settings. I’m not promoting this in a group setting. I think it’s hard when you have multiple kids and they start messing around and they’re all kind of doing different stuff. I think that can be more challenging. But in a one-on-one safe environment where you are very focused and the kid is coachable, the kid is willing to learn, the kid wants to learn, and you have to introduce it slowly. And that’s the other thing too. This isn’t like we’re doing some periodized program where we’re hitting it every single week and this and that. At a young age, it’s introduced slowly and it’s integrated with all the other fun stuff that we’re doing as far as play and everything else goes. But yeah, I think deadlifting is important. I think back squatting is important. I think people that are pushing back on that because of injury risk have got it completely wrong. I think that if the environment is safe, I think that they’re progressively loaded in a progressive way that makes sense. You’re breaking things down in a way that makes sense and we’re not hitting with too much at once. And the kid sees the value in it and the kid sees the importance of it. The kid sees their progression. I think that is a really, really important valuable thing. So what’s the harm? I think there’s so much greater harm in not weightlifting. I think there is significantly greater risk in not weightlifting. The last thing I’m worried about is a growth plate injury. You know what I’m much more worried about? Smartphone use, mental health, emotional development, confidence, the ability to work hard and to grind and to learn grit and determination. When you know you’re pushing yourself and you’re kind of close to your max effort, I want a kid to feel that. I want a kid to know what that feels like. I could care less about the specific skill they’re developing and some specific sport.
08:45 LIFELONG LOVE FOR PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT
I’m much more interested in the lifelong love and passion for working on your body and developing yourself physically and working hard and loving your body, loving yourself enough to devote time and effort and to invest in yourself because you want to get better. You want to be healthier and you want to approach each day as improving from the day before. I think that’s really important. So I think the negative consequences of not doing that are significant. I think the negative consequences of doing that are minimal to none. And so I would encourage, I think as a clinician, I think that’s an important thing for us to educate people on. So I think when you’re seeing youth athletes, when you’re seeing pediatric orthopedic injuries, that’s a great opportunity to introduce a little bit of resistance training and to show people that it’s safe and to show people that it’s effective and to show them all the benefits of it. So hope that helps. Have a great day, everybody.
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