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Learning karate won't hurt 6-year-old


My 6-year-old son has been enrolled in a karate class for almost a year.

Can karate be harmful to his physical development?

How about soccer, gymnastics and other organized athletic activities?

With a few exceptions -- boxing and weightlifting come immediately to mind -- it is perfectly safe for a young child to participate in sports, provided a few guidelines are followed:

The sport should be fun for the child and the motivation should come from the child, rather than a parent or coach.

The sport should not take all the child's free time. It is important for children to have time for free play and for sampling a variety of activities.

The sport should build the child's self-esteem, not erode it. There is no room for shaming or blaming a child for the quality of his or her abilities.

Complaints of pain should be taken seriously, and the child should stop participation until the pain and soreness are gone, and then return to the sport with a more modest schedule.

The sport should not require restrictions on food and water intake.

If a child is asked to keep his weight down to maintain a particular body type or weight class, or if he is asked to put on weight for their sport, long-term growth and health may be affected.

Last, but not least, all protective equipment should be worn and safety rules honored.

Many sports available to youngsters fulfill all of the above rules, so we wish you and your child an enjoyable experience!

Dr. Modena Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Alain Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

Pub Date: 4/01/97

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