How many of us live in constant or semi-constant pain? I would say that it is an unfortunately high percentage. Whether it’s that old football injury, nagging rotator cuff, or maybe just a tight low back, there is some little nagging issue that most of deal with on a day-to-day basis. Maybe you have almost become unaware of the pain due to experiencing it for so long. In other cases, the pain can be severe, but could be the product of years of bad habits (a herniated disc in your neck from poor posture would be an example). The most frustrating thing about these types of pain is that most of this pain is PREVENTABLE, especially if we start learning how to take care of our bodies at an early age.
Pain is trouble
Thus, I am making it one of my life goals to help educate parents, kids, coaches, educators, and many others on the importance of basic physical knowledge to prevent a lifetime of disease and dysfunction. How can we teach kids the basics of math while neglecting to instruct them that pain is a sign that shouldn’t be ignored?
Pain is an indicator of your body’s tissues being in distress (imagine being pinched) and is essentially your body telling you to pay attention and relieve the distress. Chronic pain means chronic distress, which over time can lead to soft-tissue damage (imagine having the inside of your joint pinched repeatedly: now you can see how cartilage and tendon damage happen slowly over time). However, we usually don’t address the pain until it gets bad enough to prevent us from doing what we love. Unfortunately, this usually means we have created permanent tissue damage along the way (cartilage damage, tendon tears, bone spurs, etc). Thus, now we can see why pain needs to be addressed early to prevent irreparable tissue damage.
How does this apply to kids?
Kids are usually pretty resilient as they grow. They can be dropped, fall down, crash-and-burn, bounce, bang, whack, and conduct a wide variety of other semi-violent activities and still come out relatively unscathed. Thus, as children, we often get the impression that pain isn’t something to worry about, as it will be gone shortly. Yet, this simple misunderstanding about pain and its causes (and consequences) can often lead to long-term issues if not addressed properly on the front-end. Notice, I am not talking about falling down and getting a scrape, but overuse injuries that slowly develop over the course of one or more seasons of play.
I will use myself as an example. Growing up, I went through stress fractures in my shins from running, avulsion fractures on both my hips from sprinting, improper ankle rehabilitation (resulting in long-standing knee and hip problems) and a variety of other crap simply because my parents, coaches, and I didn’t know any better. Now, I hold no grudges, but as I have delved into health, science, and fitness in the last few years, it is amazing to see how such simple things could make big changes in how much pain we have to “live with” as adults.
A couple big things I would love to see implemented for kids:
- Pain awareness – the understanding that pain is a negative thing and needs to be addressed, thus leading to an understanding of how to address pain
- Healthy practices for sports training (such as little league limiting the number of pitches a kid can throw in a game)
- Off-Seasons – colleges and pro teams make their athletes have off-seasons to keep them healthy, the same should go for kids
- Proper strength and conditioning programs for kids (doesn’t have to be weight lifting, especially important if PE isn’t in the picture, and yes it is safe)
- Delayed specialization (Waiting to specialize in a sport until adolescence as the bones are still maturing)
- Making “Play” part of a kid’s physical development again – more time moving, less time sitting
Now, before everyone starts saying that kids like their video games because they they are lazy, don’t like hard work or physically pushing themselves, I think there is something we need to address: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LAZY KID. Have you ever seen a kid with a video game they like? You physically can’t take it out of their hands without a fight. What if you applied the same idea of fun, games, and control to physically training kids? If you have ever attended a well-run CrossFit Kids class or a practice run by a knowledgeable coach, the kids will tell you that they “LOVE” burpees, and that they show up every day, BEGGING to do plank circles, or that I get mauled when I visit a friend’s house because all three kids want to do “barrow-ball” competitions (we are still working on getting them to understand what a “wheelbarrow” is). It simply needs to reintroduce fun and games as part of the equation.
The eventual goal would be to start training coaches, parents, kids, educators, and everyone else involved in a child’s development to the importance of physical development in conjunction with mental and emotional development. Only through a copmlete focus on development can we truly reach our potential as pain-free, intelligent human beings.
The ultimate goal is how can we create bulletproof human beings? Well, you start by creating bulletproof kids and work from there…