Thursday, February 24, 2011

Should children run marathons?

NYT reports

With temperatures warming and the snows of 2011 finally dissolving into oatmeal slush, many people are feeling an insistent urge to get outside and run, perhaps even to start training for a spring marathon or other distance race. But for some of us, particularly those with young families, this laudatory goal can pose a problem. Should we take our kids with us? Can and should children, at any age, be runners?

This question, though commonly voiced by athletic parents (I hear it all the time), has received surprisingly little scientific scrutiny. Injury patterns and other issues in youth football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer have been extensively studied, but not in youth running. Two new studies, however, have looked squarely at what happens when young people run. Unfortunately they seem to have produced, on first reading, incompatible results.