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Is Your Child Ready to Play Sports? Part 2: The Brain, Motor Development, Hypermobility, Bone Age

In Part 1, we discussed the Growth, Maturation, Developmental Age, and Long Term Athletic Development.

In Part 2, we will discuss the brain, motor development, and bone age..

The brain and movement. In Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert's TED Talk, he "starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement." I have met many fathers who are proud that their son did not crawl. Unfortunately, that is not a good thing!

"Relative to the performance of crawlers, noncrawlers showed lower average and subtest-specific performance on selected measures of the Miller Assessment for Preschoolers. These results, interpreted through Ayres' sensory integration theory and applied to current occupational therapy practice, support Farber's hypothesized importance of early crawling experience in the development of sensory and motor systems of the body and general motor skill development."

Motor Development. "The development of fundamental movement skills is associated with positive health-related outcomes. Children do not develop FMS naturally through maturational processes. These skills need to be learned, practised and reinforced." Reference

This is why a Long Term Athletic Development/Youth Physical Development program is so important. Our coaches in the United States do a great job with sport specific skills: throwing a ball, kicking a ball, swinging a bat or racquet. But they do not do a good job with basic movement: running, jumping, landing, hopping, skipping. I coach my son's U8 soccer team and at the beginning of the season, he was the only child who could skip. Why, because at home, we played. And part of playing was skipping!

And this becomes even more important for overweight and obese kids. Reference

Bone Age. "The bone age of a child indicates his/her level of biological and structural maturity better than the chronological age calculated from the date of birth." Reference

This is one of the main reasons why chronological age should not be used as the only factor to consider when developing a youth athlete. Bone is an active tissue composed of minerals and collagen, an elastic tissue that helps prevent fracture. Most bones in the human skeleton fully ossify by the time puberty occurs. Ossify means that the matrix of mineral and collagen harden around cells that remain metabolically active. Some bones do not fully ossify until late teens to the mid 20s (shoulder 17 - 20, hip 18 - 23, breastbone, collar bone and spine 23 - 25). Reference

Over the course of one year, about 5% to 10% of bone is replaced with new bone. This process is called remodeling. "Remodeling continues throughout life so that most of the adult skeleton is replaced about every 10 years." Reference

Determining a child's bone age can be very helpful in determining the safety of training and playing sports. Reference. When is it safe to increase the parameters of training like load (weights), speed, and physical contact? "... the current data from several intervention trials in children indicate that programmes incorporating a diverse range of weight-bearing impact activities can enhance the mass, structure and strength of bone, particularly in boys during the prepubertal years." Reference

Knowing bone age helps determine these training parameters and thus may differ greatly from common recommendations based on chronological age.

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