STRENGTH TRAINING AND PREPUBESCENT YOUTH
The value placed on the importance of winning in professional sports has hit an all-time high. The astronomical amount of money being spent in the entertainment field of athletics has dictated a win-at-all-costs mentality that has trickled all the way down to negatively affect our youngest athletes - the prepubescent. The athletic world has forever been exploiting our youth as a source of athletic potential, sacrificing the health, safety and welfare of these child-athletes to satiate the intense nationalistic pride of the country and more dishearteningly in the name of the Almighty Dollar. This has caused coaches and athletes to take drastic measures which are sometimes illegal and usually unethical in order to improve performance levels. One of the most controversial training practices center around the impact of strength training in prepubescent children. There has recently been increasing scrutiny debating the merits of strength training in our youth and more importantly the unsafe and unethical training practices that tend to be utilized in implementing strength training programs in all levels of amateur athletics. These controversies have enabled many people associated in medical and exercise sciences to take a further look at the field of prepubescent athletics and their impact on the developmental patterns of the children involved. The research in the field has provided feedback regarding the physiological, mental and social effects - negative and/or positive - that strength training influences over prepubescent growth and development. American society has entered into an era in which strength training has become the standard and most popular method of keeping the musculature of the body in aesthetic shape. Fitness centers and personal home gyms have emerged as important catalysts for people, providing everyone with equal opportunity and incentive to exercise and strength train in safe and instructional settings. This fitness boom along with the growing concerns and questions regarding the safety of prepubescent exercise has spurred several gatherings of pediatricians, fitness center owners, exercise physiologists and other related exercise scientists. Together, these groups are involved in active research studies, discussion of the methods, safety issues and effects of strength-training on prepubescent children. Subsequently there have been numerous articles documenting the effects of prepubescent strength-training many of which are incorporated into this paper. Exercise physiology has previously proven that in order to increase muscular strength and endurance, the frequency, intensity and duration components of a workout must be gradually and independently increased. This has brought up several important questions regarding the effects of strength training in the burgeoning field of prepubescent exercise physiology. The most important and most asked question is can and/or will prepubescent strength training cause developmental-inhibiting musculoskeletal injuries such as epiphyseal plate fractures. These types of fractures can lead to the stunting of limb growth in the affected area(s) and are obviously injuries that can negatively affect the normal development of our youth (Thomas, 1995). The next obvious question was two-fold; what are the benefits, if any, of prepubescent strength-training and do the benefits warrant risking possible physical harm? The last and the least obvious question asked wanted to know what exactly was prepubescent strength-training and what were its safety guidelines? For the purposes of these studies and this paper, strength training will be defined as the use of progressive resistance methods such as body weight (i.e. pushups), free weights, isotonic and isokinetic machines utilized in an attempt to increase one's ability to exert or resist force (Cahill, 1995). Prepubescence will be defined...
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