How Hard Should My Children Train to Improve Performance?

A former patient of mine came into my office to ask me questions regarding his son’s reaction to the training program he enrolled him in at his high school. The soccer coach hired a strength and conditioning individual that set up a training program for the team. The training program lasts for two hours after school. It involved many different exercise stations. The father told me that his son trains so hard that during the training session he feels faint and dizzy.

Some of the athletes even vomited during the training session. Several centers around my neighborhood are proud of the fact that the training sessions are so intense that the athletes commonly vomit, experience dizziness, and are fatigued afterwards.

What are the physiological responses to training that are negative to the health of the individual? How safe, or dangerous is exercise?

Over training can have disastrous effects on the body. Overtraining has been associated with periods of excessive training when the training load is too intense or the volume of training exceeds the body’s ability to recover and adapt. Few athletes are under trained, but unfortunately many are over trained. Unfortunately some people think that more intense training produces more improvement. This is not only wrong but also dangerous.

Some of the symptoms of over training include, nausea, elevated resting heart rate and elevated blood pressure, sleep disturbances, and decreased appetite. The above results are from an autonomic nervous system response from overtraining. The autonomic nervous system controls body functions that are automatic and not under our direct control. The heart is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Recent studies confirm that excessive training suppresses normal immune function, increasing the overtrained athlete’s susceptibility to infections. Several investigators have reported an increased incidence of illness following a single, exhaustive exercise bout. The body is more susceptible to disease because of the low levels of antibodies found in the blood stream after excessive exercise sessions.

In young children from the ages of 12-18 there is an addition danger of overtraining. Excessive stress can lead to damage of the bone growth plates or inflammation and pain. One of the concerns of the parent that came in to ask questions about his son’s training was the development of stress fractures. His son was already diagnosed with stress fractures of the ankle several months prior to the training sessions.

Measurement of various blood hormone levels during periods of intensified training suggests that disturbances in endocrine function accompany the excessive stress of overtraining. Testosterone is a male hormone that demonstrates decreased levels with excessive exercise sessions. Testosterone is a substance that produces masculine characteristics, such as muscle growth, an important function in young males.

Beware of “strength trainers” that foster the concept of excessive exercise sessions are necessary to improve performance. These strength coaches, trainers, or what ever they call themselves may be poorly educated individuals in the area of exercise physiology. Every parent wants to see their child excel in their sport. Improving the performance of an athlete at any age does not require excessive training sessions, which include several hours of exercise. Pushing our young athletes beyond the physiological limits of the their body can be dangerous and disruptive to their health and well being. You or your young athlete should never feel faint, dizzy, or nausea. If the exercise session brings on these symptoms it is a good possibility you or your child are in danger of causing harm.

If you suspect that you or your child has a sports injury, it is critical to seek the urgent consultation of a local sports injuries doctor for appropriate care. To locate a top doctor or physical therapist in your area, please visit our Find a Sports Medicine Doctor or Physical Therapist Near You section.

More Information

Read about sports injury treatment using the P.R.I.C.E. principle - Protection, Rest, Icing, Compression, Elevation.

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Kirt Kimball

Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Kirt Kimball
1055 North 500 West
Suite 121

Provo, Utah

(801) 373-7350