Why is it important for children to undergo a sport check-up before starting withswimming?
Today, without a sport check-up your child can’t start with swim lessons! “What do you mean?” As I’ve said. You need to bring me a sport check-up report and only then can your child get into the pool and start swimming. “I’m sorry, I was in a hurry so I forgot to bring it today”, says a mother of a five-year-old boy. “Could you please let him attend the class today and I’ll bring the report next time…” “Sorry, but there are no exceptions when it comes to children’s health”
Sport check-ups are a vital part of the swimming life of your child, so don’t ignore it. Why? Because, every sport, with swimming included, is “a therapy” of some sort, and a way of prevention for many things children might suffer from, but only if we monitor the child’s development and his/her health status properly, both in and outside the pool.
A health certificate is not just another piece of paper, but an additional guide for coaches who are supposed to take care of your children in the water and next to it during swim lessons.
A sport check-up is vital for older children and children who compete, due to the bigger efforts they make, the pressure and their demanding trainings, but it is also quite important for the younger ones who are just dipping their toes in the water.
Because the water and swimming are there for everyone. They offer a fantastic variety of activities, exercises which can be helpful as a part of a therapy, and which can mitigate certain physical or mental defects. But first of all, they need to be diagnosed, monitored through systematic and sport check-ups. A disease is a not a barrier to swimming. Quite the opposite. It is important to underline this to the swim coaches so that they could adjust the swimming and development pace of your child.
ASTHMA – For instance, if your child has pulmonary difficulties or asthma, swimming is recommended to both children and to adults. The reason is that swimming has a positive impact of chest development and intercostal muscles are extremely important for breathing, which increases the lung capacity and the lungs become stronger. With regular specialist examinations and proper swimming and breathing, your child can enjoy the time in the water and swim. In my coaching experience I’ve had many examples of children who used pumps and who have drastically reduced their use, while many of them have stopped using them for good.
TEETH – Did you know that before swimming or any other sport your child should have his/her teeth checked? Why?! Because a tooth decay or a harmless inflammation process in your oral cavity can easily turn into an infection which might spread to other parts of your body, sometimes to the cardiovascular system and bring to some issues with the cardiac muscle and heart valves. What exactly can happen? It’s quite simple – a purulent process occurs in “the head”! It is there where bacteria fight with the child’s immunity system, and antibiotics can be of help here. If the infection becomes worse, serious complications may occur as the bacteria can bring to other inflammations anywhere else in the body. Swimming itself and other physical activities may help the infection spread – and increase the probability of the bacteria “to leak” and make problems. This is why we need to “take some rest” and wait until the swelling goes away before getting back to the pool. How long should we wait? As long as the child is on a therapy and the swelling is still there – there are no trainings! It usually all ends in seven (maximum ten) days. It’s a short thing!
HEART – Parents often come to tell me that their little boy has a heart murmur and that the physician who had done the examination said he could take up swimming. It happens quite often. When it comes to physiological heart murmur, children can take up swimming, with regular check-ups and supervision by a specialist. This is why sport check-ups are important for athletes (swimmers) but they are also important for the coaches to know about the problem. From my experience, a diagnosed heart murmur, especially in children, is most often of benign character and it wears off with years. However, a heart murmur can also be a sign of a serious congenital heart defect or heart valve diseases and must be examined in details, primarily by a heart ultrasound scan. I would like to kindly ask all the parents to let the coach know about all the details and to update him with new details so that the swimming could be helpful to your child in those circumstances.
SPINE – What if a spine problem is identified in the sport check-up? It’s always great to know the health status. We’ll start with swimming right away. Because any swim technique along with continuous exercises can help the back muscles, neck muscles and shoulders become stronger as well as the spine itself. However, when it comes to a spine issue in children, any sport activity should be done carefully. Here is an example from my experience.
There was a couple who brought their eight-year-old son who had been training tennis for a year and a half four times a week, and sometimes even more often. Namely, certain changes had been identified on his spine and the doctor had told them to get him engaged in another sport, preferably swimming. If there is a slight deformity, certain sports can worsen it. If there is an indication of a certain deformity, asymmetrical sports should better be avoided, such as tennis, basketball, and handball, as they put pressure only on one side of the body. I’m personally fine with these sports. I love them to be honest! On the other hand, volleyball, athletics, gymnastics, dancing and even folk dance, though not a sport, can equally develop all the muscles. Swimming requires a general involvement of the muscles of the locomotor apparatus, and is ideal for a proper development in children! After a year of regular swimming and the balance between tennis and swimming, we stopped the process completely and eliminated the changes on the spine of the boy.
FEET – The story with the feet is a similar one. Swimming makes the foot ligaments and muscles stronger. With swimming and certain exercises in the water a child can have a proper development of feet and these activities may also mitigate the progression of certain deformities. What matters here is that sport check-ups are done so that we could know where the problem is, so that we could work on solving it. Here is an example: She was a top swimmer and she always had flat feet (fallen arches). All the “dry” activities and exercises were rather painful to her after only a couple of minutes even though she was wearing orthopaedic insoles and quality footwear. And then swimming “happened to her”.. an activity in the free water surrounding which actually marked the rest of her life. Doing a sport which does not cause any feet pain was a completely new experience for her. The water as a relaxing medium with no force and with minimal pressure on the feet was a help itself.
MOTOR SKILLS – If your child has poor motor skills, it gets an entirely new perspective in the water. Certainly, as in the water and in any aquatic sport it’s not all about the speed and strokes.. it is more about how you feel in the water and trust me, it is the crucial, and the buoyancy and the propulsion of the body in the water are things that matter. Being “slow” in the water sometimes means being fast!
Swimming requires devotion and patience, regardless of the health statues of the swimmer. Results are made with a continuous swimming of two to three times a sweet after a year of swimming, sometimes even more. Swimming will bring you many benefits both for you and your general health, if you’re persistent and have trust in it.
Despite a wide variety of preventive check-ups, tragedies take place on the field, in the pool during a training, they make the parents question themselves, have dilemmas, be doubtful and full with fears. Sport medicine underlines that it is not always possible to identify risks in sport check-ups which might jeopardize the health of children in trainings… but with regular check-ups every six months or even more frequently, if necessary, they can minimize all those risks.
This is why, dear parents, you should take the sport check-ups seriously, for the best interest of all of us and our children!
Life is much more beautiful when you’re swimming!