Of Joints and Juveniles: For Some Young Olympic Hopefuls, All That Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing

By Beil, Laura | Science News, September 17, 1988 | Go to article overview

Of Joints and Juveniles: For Some Young Olympic Hopefuls, All That Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing


Beil, Laura, Science News


Of Joints and Juveniles

She was 14 when her grace on the balance beam and her lightning spins and twists from the lower to the upper parallel bar left Olympic judges with nothing to fault. Nadia Comaneci was a perfect gymnast, the darling of the summer games, and what's more, she was so young.

That was 1976, the year a bumper crop of adolescents in sweat-soaked leotards began spending mornings and afternoons at the gym, yearning for gold medals. "I think some people even called it 'The Nadia Syndrome,'" says Lyle Micheli, director of sports medicine at Children's Hospital in Boston. In the 12 years since, teenage athletes have become commonplace not only in gymnastics (where Mary Lour Retton took the 1984 gold at 16), but also in training for other demanding sports such as swimming and ice skating.

This week, more than 1,000 sports medicine researchers--among them physicians, psychologists and nutritionists--gathered in Seoul, Korea, for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Scientific Congress in anticipation of the summer games. Micheli, whose keynote address for the conference dealt with injuries and overtraining in young athletes, says pediatricians have two main worries about teenage athletics: The cessation of menstruation in some young females, and potential damage to the bones and joints of young athletes, male and female alike.

"We're trying to find out how much is too much," Micheli says about the rigors of training. In addition to the well-documented psychological strains of competition, the physical effects have long been of concern to sports medicine researchers, who are now forming some conclusions and offering some advice to the coaches and parents of children with Olympic dreams.

Teenage girls who train until their bodies stop menstruating may be risking permanent bone damage. Four years ago, Barbara Drinkwater of the University of Washington in Seattle studied 22 runners in their mid-20s, and concluded that the loss of menstruation brought on by extensive exercise results in brittle bones that usually come only with old age. In the Aug. 2, 1984 NEW ENGLAND JUURNAL OF MEDICINE, she attributed this problem--which amounts to premature osteoporosis -- primarily to a lack of the estrogen needed for bones to absorb calcium.

She stressed that exercise itself normally strengthens bone, and that this condition was a result of a very intense training regimen. While all the runners in the study exercised almost the same amount of time each day, those who stopped menstruating ran about 42 miles a week; those who didn't averaged 25.

A handful of separate studies later confirmed Drinkwater's findings, and she has continued to follow those same athletes, seven of whom have since resumed menstrual cycles. Now at the Pacific Medical Center in Seattle, Drinkwater says some women who resume menstruation do replenish lost bone mass over several months, suggesting the condition is at least partially reversible. Still, some effects linger. "They are plateauing at a level [of bone strength] significantly lower than their age group," she says.

Excessive exercise may be too simple an explanation for why some female athletes lose bone mass. The problem probably involves a host of additional factors, including nutrition, rate of weight loss, psychological stress and the regularity of cycles before menstruation ceases. Drinkwater says these individuals often resume menstruating if they put on a few pounds or slack off on exercise. "But," she notes, "it's very hard to get topnotch athletes to consider either of those."

Even if young women do not exercise to the point of losing their menstrual cycles, they still may wear out cartilage or damage growth plates that sit just beyond the joints. Each sport has its own particular menace: Gymnasts risk back and wrist injuries, runners and cyclists can suffer knee problems, weight-lifters strain joints in the arms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Of Joints and Juveniles: For Some Young Olympic Hopefuls, All That Training Can Be Too Much of a Good Thing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.