In the United States, about one-third of young people between the ages of 2 to 19 are regarded as overweight or obese. Among the wide variety of both social and health problems associated with childhood obesity, a child’s bone growth and musculoskeletal health can be greatly affected, putting them at risk for pain, deformity, limited mobility and an increasingly diminished quality of life.

During bone growth, excessive weight can damage areas of developing cartilage tissue at the end of the arms, legs and other long bones. These tissues, known as growth plates, regulate and help to determine the ultimate length and shape of the bone. The stress on these growth plates from excess weight can place children at risk for broken bones, early arthritis, and many other conditions.

In fact, overweight children may not only be at greater risk for fractures, but they may experience complications that can delay or change their treatment results, such as difficulty using crutches or insufficient strength of the traditional metal implants for these repairs.

Often, obese children have developmental coordination issues such as clumsiness, difficulty with the coordination required to jump, hop, or standing on one foot, or even activities like writing, using scissors, or tying their shoelaces. Due to these pain and coordination issues, the ability of overweight children to participate in adequate exercise often contributes to a cycle of increasing weight gain. Additionally, many children who are overweight suffer from feet that are painful and prevent them from participating in many activities including walking for extended periods.

However, for most children, just half an hour to an hour of physical activity along with a nutritionally rich diet can help to minimize the risk of being overweight and help to build and maintain strong bones for life. When exercise is reduced due to painful feet, low impact activities such as bicycle riding or swimming may be the solution.

If you have concerns about your child’s orthopedic health and need more information about how you can help reduce the risks of obesity, please call or visit our caring doctors at Spine & Orthopedic Center today.