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Kids These Days!

Posted by tdifranc on August 15, 2011

I just hit the big “three-oh”…yup I am 30! This means that my body starts falling apart now and shortly my mind will go too, so I will not be able to remember things from my youth. Luckily I am capable of recalling enough of my childhood, however, to know that it was not quite the same as what “kids these days” experience.

After I graduated from physical therapy school with my Doctorate, I expected to get out in the field and be faced with treating mostly older people (over 30). I anticipated I would see people who had just put too many miles on their bodies and had started to breakdown. Although I did see some of this I was SHOCKED to see so many KIDS under the age of 15.

At the time I was only 26 (or 27…I’m not sure it was so long ago) and I was treating kids who did not even know who Bill Clinton was! I was confused! I was young at the time and yet kids who were half my age were coming in for physical therapy related to non-contact injuries like knee pain, back pain, hip pain, and shoulder pain.

I thought about it a little more and I could NOT remember a point in my pre-high school days when I had a non-contact injury, let alone one that caused me to have to go to physical therapy!!! I had my fair share of contact injuries including broken bones, ankle sprains, and finger dislocations but never the non-contact variety.

Non-contact injuries can develop over a long period of time or they can be sudden. They are common and expected to occur in older people (over 30)…but not in twelve year olds!!!

Now that I am 30 I am qualified to use the term “when I was a boy”…
Way back “when I was a boy” I was allowed, and encouraged to go “play” outside in the woods, the park, or in the neighborhood. I am not so sure this is the case anymore. I used to play three different sports in a single day and sprinkled in between those sports I would climb a few trees, jump off of a few rocks and help my Dad stack some wood. Aside from my Dad laughing out loud at my potentially false claims of helping him stack wood, I believe that most people reading this can say the same about their childhood: it included constant unstructured activity that varied from hour to hour.This is GOOD...

Instead of climbing trees, jumping off rocks, and lifting/stacking wood, “kids these days” have a different set of daily activities! They climb into SUV’s, jump out of SUV’s, and lift their back-packs in and out of SUV’s, all year around as they travel to and from the one sport that they have chosen to specialize in since they were 8 years old.

Lets recap that…kids today get little to no opportunity to challenge their bodies to get strong, develop balance, and create flexibility (the way we used to). They are encouraged to play more of the same sport than ever before and yet we just can’t understand why they are complaining more and more about unnecessary, avoidable non-contact injuries…hmmm isn’t that strange! This is BAD!

While I slowly climb off of my soap box (I would jump but I am over 30 now so I have to be careful) lets review some solutions to this issue. It is important to understand that I am not suggesting that we let kids go play outside all day without supervision. Kids activities may have changed but so has society and that just would not be realistic/safe.

I am not talking about trying to change the evolution of kids in today’s society but I am trying to find ways to balance or combat the pitfalls this evolution may be bringing on.

– Encourage kids to play different sports that they enjoy.
– Lead by example and show kids how varying your physical activities can be fun and exciting.
– Give kids opportunities to engage in unstructured fun physical activities.
Buy them an iphone before the age of 5.
– Allow kids to take at least one season off during the course of the year to recover; participate in cross-training of some sort.
– Find supervised/safe ways for kids to attempt physical challenges like climbing, jumping, pulling and lifting.
– Challenge your kids in a fun way to attempt to do at least one of the following everyday (they should always be done with safety in mind):
o Text for 8 hours straight
o Use the computer until they fall asleep on the keyboard

o Run as fast as they can
o Jump as high as they can
o Throw something (safe) as far as they can
o Push something heavy
o Pull something heavy
o Climb something
o Do as many push ups as they can
o Do as many pull ups as they can
o Skip for as long as their favorite song lasts on their ipod
o Ride a bike up and down a hill

Believe it or not there are kids that do not do even one of those activities for weeks at a time. It is not normal anymore to do these types of things spontaneously. This is creating an environment where kids get weak, injured, and overweight. I think we can all agree that an environment where kids are hyper-susceptible to any one of these pitfalls (general weakness/non-contact injury/overweight) is a bad environment!

Here’s what some of the under 16 year olds have been up to at TD Athletes Edge:

Are your under 16 year olds doing stuff like this everyday????


2 Responses to “Kids These Days!”

  1. Jeffrey Gold said

    And this doesn’t even touch on the childhood obesity I see in my practice. Unacceptable. Excellent article Dr. Difrancesco. Huzzah!

  2. tdifranc said

    Thank you Dr. Gold – I would love to hear more about your thoughts on childhood obesity that you see so much of…scary stuff!

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