Body shape dictates sports performance

Soana Afu, Staff Reporter

We all remember the awkward years of middle school. Raging emotions, growth pains, weird smells, sweaty palms and an overall feeling of confusion and anxiety. We are told that this happens to everyone, just at different times and in different ways. It can even happen during the worst of times and in the worst way, like during the first game of the season.
Puberty is a significant stage in athletic careers. From freshman to senior year, bodies grow faster than any other time in an athlete’s life, according to TeensHealth, a website run by the nonprofit Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media. It’s a sign of your body developing and maturing, but when it is combated with working muscles, strict diets, growth supplements and many other practices performed by athletes, the outcomes are more than temporary.
As an adolescent, bones are still being made and shifted into place.
Hormones are fluctuating and steadily increasing with time. Muscles are stretched and worked to new levels. All these changes will happen suddenly and quickly, but are essential for your body.
Athletes know these physical changes have an impact on their performance. They get taller and stronger but fear getting slower and heavier. These changes seem inescapable, but they can be managed in a sensible way.
The public does not help support our young athletes enduring puberty, though. The media constantly commends professional athletes on their bodies, yet disregards the time it took for them to reach this state. Young athletes aspire to look this way because they connect it with being successful and the fame that comes with it. They resort to extreme measures to try and slow down or speed up changes that occur during puberty.
Coaches promote repetitive weight lifting, high impact hitting and other exercises focused around gaining muscle that have the potential to seriously damage athletes’ growing bodies. The muscles have not matured enough to be constantly worked. Cartilage and growth tissues will weaken and become susceptible to falls, twists and hits. Surgery is usually required to repair strains, tears and bruising and can take months to recover from. In extreme cases, these injuries are permanent and may never be rehabilitated.
Diets and growth supplements are used to manage weight. Athletes will starve themselves to stay in a weight category, binge eat to become stronger and gain muscle or take artificial supplements to increase physical changes.
Athletes that do this will see fast results. Unfortunately, these are not at all permanent or healthy. You’ll gain muscle and lose weight, but your body knows how to adjust and will start to reject your actions. The damages, however, will be severe. You become more at risk for prolonged or delayed puberty, affecting your body currently and in the future. These short term positives do not outweigh the lifelong negatives.
Puberty does not last forever, but it is vital that time is taken to let your body mature. These changes will happen either way, so fighting them will only damage your body more. Help the process by practicing a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and occasionally putting time aside for your body to recover and relax.