Adolescent Growth Spurts
Adolescence can be both a fun and challenging time for the individual and those around them. Changes which occur are not only physical but emotional, psychological and social. It is also around this time that many teenagers and pre-teens are participating or increasing their participation in their chosen sporting pursuits and more time may be being demanded from coaches and teachers.
Every individual will develop differently. Some will grow in a slow steady fashion over a couple of years where as other will experience rapid growth spurts over a period of months. IT is often these individuals who will suffer more from growth-related problems.
As we grow during adolescence the long bones of our arms and legs grow first, followed by our trunk and then the muscles, tendons, and nerves catch up. It is this latency of the muscles and nerves that can give rise to the lanky, uncoordinated teenager who now has difficulty not falling over!
During these periods of growth, it is important to remain active but the activity level may need to change to allow for pain-free sporting involvement. It is also important to remember that if an individual has had a sudden growth spurt and has lost some of their natural coordination, training may need to be adapted while their body catches up to avoid putting them at risk of injury.
Stretching can be helpful during growth spurts although this needs to be done carefully as the muscles and tendons are already on stretch trying to catch up with the bony growth which has taken place. Controlled stretches and strength work can really help during this time to regain strength in the muscles new elongated range. This, in turn, provides protection to the joints and can assist in improving balance and coordination. Your physiotherapist can help advise on which stretches or exercises may be best and can also assist in load modification. During growth spurts, an individual’s training load may need to be adjusted to allow time for their body to catch up and let them perform pain-free. The physiotherapist can assist with advising on appropriate loads and also the reintroduction of activity to allow a full return to sport/performance. Controlled exercises such as Pilates can also be a great way to work on stretching and strength in a safe environment for growing bodies.