How to reduce the risks, according to American Academy of Pediatrics
Kids and martial arts just seem to go together like cake and ice cream. Media hits like The Karate Kid, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers have sent kids begging their parents to sign them up martial arts studios for years. The most popular martial arts forms among kids are taekwondo, karate, judo, and kickboxing. In the U.S. alone, more than 6.5 million children participate in some form of martial arts training.
Martial arts aren’t just a fun activity for young people. They provide structured recreation, teach self-defense, and promote physical fitness and healthy competition among their peers. But the sport isn’t without risks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published Youth Participation and Injury Risk in Martial Arts, which includes exposures to the direct injury risks of different forms of martial arts. Following are the AAP’s general conclusions regarding youth involvement in the martial arts.
- It’s critical that instructors offer proper supervision and training taking into account each child’s age, maturity level, size and experience.
- A child’s participation in competition should only take place when he or she has demonstrated sufficient physical maturity and emotional competency with non-contact moves and techniques.
- Direct blows to the head should be forbidden.
- Proper defensive blocking techniques should be taught to avoid dangerous blows.
- There is no evidence that shows the risk of concussion is decreased by soft headgear and mouthguards. However, mouthguards have proven to reduce mouth and facial injuries..
Though some don’t consider it a martial art, boxing is another increasingly popular sport among youth. Boxing both encourages and rewards deliberate blows to the head, face and body, placing participants at high risk for injuries, including chronic neurologic damage. Because of these risks, the AAP strongly oppose boxing for children and adolescents.
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