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Fourteen-year-old Jake Schellenschlager, who weighs 119 pounds and describes himself as a powerlifter, made headlines recently by deadlifting 300 pounds (nearly triple his body weight). Training under a coach’s supervision since 2011, Schellenschlager has been called a powerlifting phenomenon and the “Wonder Kid” after putting in impressive squat, bench press, and deadlift numbers. While Schellenschlager is only one example of the thousands of young competitive powerlifters across the United States, his story brings to light some important questions regarding the effect of extreme sports on developing bodies.

(Curious what this muscle-bound kid looks like? Check it out here.)

With kids as young as three years old joining specialized youth CrossFit groups and 10- to 12- year-olds running marathons, it seems like participants involved in extreme sports are getting younger and younger Running-related injuries in school-age children and adolescents treated in emergency departments from 1994 through 2007. Mehl, AJ, Nelson, NG, McKenzie, LB. Clinical Pediatrics, 2011: 50 (2): 126-132.. We know that exercise can result in a host of mental and physical benefits, but could strenuous exercise at a young age actually be detrimental?

Unfortunately, not much research exists on the safety behind youth strength training. Some studies show that a well-planned program does not interfere with growth and can be a safe and effective activity for children Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. Faigenbaum, AD, Myer, GD. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2010: 44 (1): 56-63.. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports strength training for teens in their policy statement on weight training for children and adolescents — determining that it would be safe for kids to begin strength training as early as age 8 — but it cautions and discourages the explosive and rapid lifting of weights involved in powerlifting for children who are still growing.

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