Movement Patterns & Young Athletes
by Dr. Kwame M. Brown
First, we need to understand how the human body works during movements. In a nutshell, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) controls the muscles so that they can move efficiently to use energy wisely and to avoid injury. The central nervous system, in turn receives information about what’s happening from the muscles. Because of this process, movement patterns become important.
If the body learns to move inefficiently (or not at all) during development, then we are literally set up for injury. In fact, we can actually create structural abnormalities during childhood through improper (or lack of) movement. Let’s not forget, the body is still FORMING during childhood, partly in response to the genetic plan, and partly in response to experience. Additionally, if we move the joints together inefficiently and repeatedly, then the body will experience more friction than necessary and will wear out unevenly and probably more quickly. If we then add external weight to the bad pattern, this process of injury and degeneration can be even further accelerated.
The good news: If we start early by creating enriched, encouraging environments for kids to move in, these potential problems almost disappear, except in isolated cases where there is a sudden injury or disease. Even if a child gets a late start or ends up with poor movement habit, given time, patience and understanding, this can be corrected through teaching.
The bad news: There is less and less of this type of opportunity for children as we move along. Sports are becoming so hyper competitive that coaches feel the need to add weight to bad movement patterns so that teenagers can have the “big squat” or the “big bench”. Parents are afraid to let their children play outside, and typically only the affluent can enroll their children in dedicated physical development programs. Schools are getting less time for physical education, because governing bodies in education feel that the solution is “shut up, sit down, and let us bombard you with more information”.