LOS ANGELES - Can running at a young age be too much too soon? Here are what parents should watch for if their kids are participating in track and field.
Seventh-grader Sydney Covington and her brother Benji love to run. Nursing student Tess Dewulf did too, until her coach pushed the limits.
"Junior year, I couldn't run because my right knee hurt so badly," Dewulf said.
Dewulf practiced Monday through Friday plus weekend meets, but she suffered from shin splints during her freshman and sophomore year.
This is the reason why mom and athletic trainer Aly Covington worries.
"If kids are not able to participate at this level or they're getting season ending injuries that's kind of the red flag to me," Covington said.
She likes that her kids run, but she sees inappropriate pressure and over training with young kids.
"We tend to burn them out because a lot of coaches, especially middle school, high school, they hammer them out with the interval training. They hammer them with the speed work," said Dr. Jason Karp, a running expert and exercise physiologist.
Karp said a better concept to avoid burnout is doing the aerobic work to build, then waiting for speed training until late high school and college.
"Weekly mileage has the biggest impact on a runner's speed than anything else," Karp said.
Known as periodization training, it's about conditioning first then building volume.
Covington says you should raise the red flag if your kids are complaining about shins, feet, knees and hips.
"Once hormones start changing, they're more prone to be more injured, especially the females," Covington said.
Karp agrees, saying that estrogen has the single biggest impact on a girl's health than anything else.
Beyond any physical injuries, both experts say there are a handful of things you can watch out for if you feel your kids are experiencing problems
"If they're really struggling, seem to be tired, having a hard time getting up in the morning," Covington said. "They should be enthusiastic, of course, and want to go to practice and to the meets."