Regular participation in organized youth sports does not ensure adequate exposure to skill- and health-related fitness activities, and sport training without preparatory conditioning does not appear to reduce risk of injury in young athletes. Current trends indicate that widespread participation in organized youth sports is occurring at a younger age, especially in girls. Current public health recommendations developed to promote muscle strengthening and bone building activities for youth aged 6 yr and older, along with increased involvement in competitive sport activities at younger ages, has increased interest and concern from parents, clinicians, coaches, and teachers regarding the optimal age to encourage and integrate more specialized physical training into youth development programs. This review synthesizes the latest literature and expert opinion regarding when to initiate neuromuscular conditioning in youth and presents a how-to integrative training conceptual model that could maximize the potential health-related benefits for children by reducing sports-related injury risk and encouraging lifelong, regular physical activity.
1Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center and Human Performance Laboratory, Cincinnati, OH; 2Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH; 3Department of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ; 4The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center, Departments of Family Medicine, Biomedical Engineering and Physiology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; 5The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center, Department of Bioinformatics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; 6Sanford USD Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD; and 7The Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center, Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Cell Biology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
Address for correspondence: Gregory D. Myer, PhD, CSCS, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center, 3333 Burnet Avenue, MLC 10001, Cincinnati, OH 45229 (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).