Fat kids are getting hurt and developing bunions – is it time for an intervention?


Lately, I've been thinking about the plight of the nation's overweight children, who are developing conditions – such as overuse injuries and bunions – normally seen in adults, as a result of their excess weight. It's so depressing that I'm considering volunteering as a coach for a kids' softball league. (No, this has nothing to do with the cute single dad in the neighborhood who I have my eye on.)

At any rate, an article in Family Practice News describes how recommendations for obese or overweight children to get more exercise are backfiring, as these kids are often getting active for the first time and stressing their bones and muscles.

"Obese youth are being told to 'just start jogging,' and a few weeks later they’re ending up in my sports medicine clinic. And they’re already defeated," said Paul Stricker, a past president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, quoted by the news source.

The sports medicine doctor recommended that overweight or obese children begin working out with low-impact activities, such as biking, swimming, walking or strength training.

Imbalanced biomechanics are thought to play a big part in why kids are getting hurt while exercising. Weak leg muscles and inflexible tendons mean that other parts of the body need to compensate, and they often do so in a way that stresses the knees and other joints.

Stricker said that overweight kids also tend to pronate when they walk because of fallen arches. The physician recommends over-the-counter orthotics to correct this imbalance and provide arch support.

The association between foot pain and excess body fat is well-established, as one appears to exacerbate the other. People who carry too much weight often feel it in their lower extremities, and this discomfort sometimes keeps them from engaging in the exercise needed to lose weight.

As a result, overweight or obese kids may also begin to develop bunions or hammer toe, even though the deformities are more common among adults. According to Children's Hospital Boston, girls between the ages of 10 and 15 are among the most at-risk kids when it comes to bunions.

In addition to teaching boys and girls the proper way to exercise, parents may want to consider bunion splints or orthotics for their overweight or obese kids. These devices may help chubby kids avoid painful bunion surgery in the future, as well as improve their biomechanics.