Budhia Singh, the four and half year old kid from Orissa is winning many hearts and seems to be the darling child of the country. The media is raving about his incredible stamina and predicting him to be a future sports star of India.
Two days back Budhia ran a distance of 65 km, starting from the lion gate of the Jagannath temple in Puri to Bubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa, in 7 hrs and is now entering the Limca Book of records. He further intends to participate at the London marathon. However, we in India always seem to get too carried away and go overboard. Without taking away any credit from the child; Medindia wishes to raise the following points with the media and the Indian public: At the age of 4 years are we not letting the child go too far with his activity? Should not his coach be questioned? Should not the media use some degree of discretion before letting this whole thing go out of hand?
The young boy's feat has already attracted mixed reaction from the general public. Although Budhia has been warned by numerous medical experts, sports professionals form the SAI, regarding running such long distance forum organised by his mentor, nothing much has changed. Several members have expressed their anger and rage over his mentor, who they feel is exploiting the poor child for money and cheap publicity.
Responding to the issue, Dr McNamee, Chair of the British Philosophy of Sport Association and senior lecturer at Swansea University's School of Health Science, 'Running these extensive distances could have long-term disastrous consequences for this child. The health of the young boy is being put at risk, not just physically but emotionally. You have to wonder whose sporting ambitions are being fulfilled in these cases. It's not just a sporting issue; it's an ethical one and could even be termed as child abuse. In the drive to produce the best sporting talents, the recruitment and training of potential 'Olympic' winning sports professionals is starting earlier and earlier,' he said in a radio show for the BBC.
Biranchi Das, Budhia's mentor and a judo coach, however has something different to say. 'A team of three doctors conducts regular check-ups on Budhia to find out if anything is wrong with him. I don't know why these people are so concerned.' The child is said to have been saved by the coach, after his mother sold him to another man for a sum of 800 rupees. Amazed by his sports talent, the coach then decided to place him on a stringent diet and exercise regimen, to ensure that he added few kilometers to his running.
Such public awareness issues, before it can be resolved, call for an increased understanding of sports and sports related injuries. The most common types of sports injuries in children are due to overuse and re-injuries. These can result in- sprains, strains, stress fractures, tendonitis, and growth plate injuries. Budhia at this age is prone to all the above-mentioned injuries.
Overuse injuries occur due to repetitive action of any area of the body that can put too much stress on the bones and muscles. Children are more prone than adults because of the effect they may have on the child's bone growth. These injuries can be aggravated by growth spurts. Any child who plays sports can develop overuse injuries but the chances are more in a child like Budhia who even by adult standards has been overdoing it. In the lower limbs overuse injury can result in the following:
a. Shin splints cause pain and discomfort on the front of the lower parts of the legs as a consequence of repeated running on a hard surface.
b. Sprain - This is due to injury to a ligament, which may be caused by stretching or tearing. The most common sprain occurs at ankle joints during any sports. The lower limb ligaments especially the ankle and knee ligaments are more prone to these injuries (Ligaments are small tough tissues that connect bones at a joint to prevent their excessive movement).
c. Strain occurs when the injury involves either a muscle or a tendon. Muscles help us move around. Contraction and relaxation of the various muscles enable body movement. A tendon is the tough tissue that connects the muscles to the bone. Muscles and tendons are particularly susceptible to sports injuries. The most common injury involves the knee and causes pain especially in the front of the knee, under the kneecap. The affected knee would then swell up due to the underlying tendon or cartilage inflammation. This type of an injury is commonly due to muscle tightness in the hamstrings or quadriceps, the major muscle groups around the thigh.
d. Growth plate injuries- the growth plate is the active area of the bone that constantly grows. In growing children, it is located at the end of long bones. It is the growth of this plate, which determines the height of an individual. At the end of puberty, the growth plate ceases to grow further and is replaced by solid bone tissue. Repetitive action involving the growth plate, as in the case of Budhia can injure this, resulting in improper or disproportionate growth of his lower limbs.
e. Stress fractures and tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur due to overuse of muscles and tendons. In stress fracture, the ligament can tear of, drawing with it small pieces of bone. These injuries are very painful and do not show up on X-rays.
Budhia ran the 65 km in the summer heat. Although he started in the morning he finished around midday when the Cuttack temperature was soaring above 105 degrees. Concerns about sports injuries aside, the heat can pay havoc in a child's body and can even be fatal. Children tend to perspire less than adults and hence require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating. This leads to an increased susceptibility to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Repeated damage to an injured area can result in re-injuries. Re-injuries are significant as it increases the risk of developing chronic disorders such as arthritis. This, in fact has prevented many child athletes, gymnasts and skating champions from exhibiting their sports talent.
It is true that the future of Indian sports is largely dependent on kids like Budhia. While it is important to encourage kids such this young star who has made it to the headlines, it is equally important to understand that we should not be killing them with our enthusiasm. Budhia needs to be saved from this physical torture if you want him to be our future star. We hope someone is listening. But, why are the people who work against child cruelty not speaking out?