How Will Puberty Affect An Athlete
Puberty brings significant physical, physiological and psychological changes. Typically, a girl reaches puberty between 11.5 and 13 years of age and boys two years behind at 13.5-15 years. There are basic ways we all know puberty will affect our kids. They will grow bigger, more hair, their voices and their bodies will change, and they might have more mood swings. But for an athlete, these changes will have a chain reaction that could be a huge adjustment for your child and their sports. Here are five ways puberty could affect your athlete:
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- Less coordination: According to Healthierchildren.org and Dr. Kowal-Connelly, on average boys and girls going through puberty will grow 2.5 inches a year. This dramatic growth spurt can have a significant effect on their sports. While the increase in body size and muscle strength may eventually improve athletic performance, there may be a temporary decline in balance and body control. The brain needs time to adjust to the changes in height and weight. The fastest runner on the team is now struggling to keep up, the graceful swimmer is all arms and legs and the 4th batter in the rotation has slipped down the lineup because they can’t get the timing right.
- More susceptible to injury: In addition to kids having more spills and being accident prone because they aren’t used to their growing bodies, the growth plate is particularly vulnerable during this rapid period of growth. According to Medicine.net, acute events and overuse injuries to the growth plate occur most often during times of growth like puberty. Once the growing slows down, the growth plates are replaced by solid bone; this will typically happen at the end of puberty.
- Quitting their sport: There are several reasons puberty is like a landmine for athletes trying to play sports. As the hormones rage in their bodies, their priorities and interests change. The opposite sex and hanging out with friends can become more important than going to practice. Girls also gain an increased amount of body fat during puberty; this can result in body image issues along with decreased mobility and speed which can contribute to athletes not wanting to continue in their sport. Also, kids who developed early can struggle during this time, because the advantages of being bigger have now disappeared and if they didn’t develop work ethic and skills, these kids can become dismayed at their lesser status or struggle to keep up and in turn, leave their sport.
- Premenstrual issues: According to the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation, for girls the monthly premenstrual stage can bring abdominal pain, headaches, and fatigue. There may also be a reduction in both aerobic capacity and strength during this phase and all of these symptoms can affect their play and concentration on the field.
- More concussions: Particularly for boys, their bodies are bigger and stronger and during this transition phase, they have less control over them. And, as Former NFL player Steve Tasker, who suffered multiple concussions throughout his career and who speaks often on the subject of concussions recounts, “Puberty is the time when it really gets dangerous, I’ve seen it time and time again, when a kid reaches puberty. Immediately they begin to play angry and they have a level of intensity that was not there when they are prepubescent.”