Children and Running 1

In our final `top tips’ series for a healthy Run Reigate,  we pass the baton to  Mr Thomas Crompton, consultant children’s orthopaedic surgeon at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, and ask him about preparing your young runner for this year’s Kids’ Race and beyond.

“It is highly unlikely that taking part in the Run Reigate Kids’ Race for young children below the age of 10 is going to lead to injury. However, if your youngster has already caught the `running bug’,  it’s worth laying the foundations down now so they grow into a healthy teenage and adult runner.

So, encourage them to do a little warm up beforehand and some stretches to get them into the habit for when they grow older, and make sure they drink plenty of water. Make it fun and lead by example if you, as a parent, are also taking part in the adult races.

Watch out for growth spurts

While I rarely see injuries in the under 10s, very active children are susceptible to strains as they get older and are going through growth spurts. These happen between the ages of nine and 15 years old and occur when the bones grow before the muscles. It can take many months before the muscles lengthen to catch up with the bones and during this time the area of bone where the tendon attaches can become inflamed in active children.

This can lead to two types of injury depending on the age of the child.….

Severs Disease: this is caused by excessive pulling on the area of bone where the Achilles tendon is attached at the heel and is common in young athletes aged from seven to 14 who play sports that involve a lot of heel movement.  It can be associated with starting a new sport, or the start of a new season. There is pain or tenderness in one or both heels, usually at the back, and there may be swelling and redness.

Osgood Schlatter: this is a strain caused by excessive pulling on the area of bone below the knee and can occur in slightly older children, from the age of 12, and particularly in boys. A painful bony lump develops on the shin bone just below the knee. Again, it is caused by regular high impact sports such as repetitive running, jumping, football and gymnastics

How to treat Severs Disease and Osgood Schlatter:

In both cases, rest and ice will help and, while your child might not be able to run at the same level for a while, encourage them to try other exercises such as swimming. They will need to stretch their leg muscles regularly and it is worth seeking the advice of a physiotherapist. Both conditions should get better in time.

Add variety

The children I see most often with injuries are those that are focused just on one sport, five days a week, which can lead to repetitive strain. So, it’s important to encourage your young runner to try a variety of sports such as swimming and cycling.

Look after young bones

It is rare, but I do see teenagers with metatarsal stress fractures (tiny breaks in the bones of the feet) and even hip fractures. These are mainly in very sporty children who are exercising almost every day, and especially young teenage girls who obsessively exercise, are very thin and don’t eat properly. It is important for good bone health that children do not diet – and I would encourage all children, whether they are runners or not, to take a daily vitamin D supplement.

For more information or to book an appointment with Mr Thomas Crompton click here