18 Aug 2014

Young athletes risking serious injuries

7:26 pm on 18 August 2014

A Commonwealth Games team doctor says many parents are too trusting of coaching systems that have the potential to cause life-long injuries to their sporty children.

Sports medicine doctor Graham Paterson is involved with High Performance Sport New Zealand and has just returned from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Dr Paterson told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme today that overcommitted children are increasingly involved in gruelling training schedules at a time when their young bodies are under huge stress as they reach puberty and are growing.

Children are at most risk when training for more than 16 hours each week, he said, and when they are growing at their fastest rate as it can cause weakness in the spine.

He said every week he sees cases of children suffering long-term or life-long injuries as a result of intensive training.

Athletics New Zealand says it has taken steps to mitigate risks in the light of a review it did in 2011 and children are now held back from high-performance training until after puberty.

Spokesperson Karen Laurie told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme doing so enhances rather than hinders a child's chances of long-term sporting success.

"In some sporting arenas we are pushing our children too hard and certainly, from Athletics New Zealand's perspective, we've looked at what is an age appropriate pathway.

"We have sort of a community pathway where we wouldn't look at promoting high-performance specialisation until we really gone through puberty."