Two other symptoms of obesity warrant special consideration: The heightened risk for injury in children and the potential for chronic pain.

Higher rates of injury due to excess weight or obesity

Whether it be due to changes in balance, the bone and structural abnormalities that often emerge in overweight children, or the increased strain placed on joints, childhood obesity also increases a child’s risk of injury. (Bazelmans et al., 2004)

A study in the April 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics found that obese children were twice as likely as other kids to break, sprain, or otherwise injure their legs, ankles, and feet. (Painter, 6-21-2010) The authors speculated that extra weight may increase the impact of accidental trips and falls, and that the excess pounds put more strain on the lower extremities on a daily basis, increasing the likelihood that they’ll give out. The feet and ankles of heavy children may also undergo structural changes that make them more vulnerable to injury. Other studies have found an increase in upper extremity fractures among overweight children as well. (Goulding, Grant & Williams, 2005)

More recently, yet another study found that excess weight in preschoolers was linked to bone fractures in childhood. Overweight children had a 42% increased risk of a broken leg and a 10% increased risk of a broken arm. For obese children it was 74% and 19%, respectively, showing any excess weight increases the risk, but the more children weigh, the more likely they are to suffer broken bones. “We usually think of the consequences of obesity in older life,” says professor Daniel Prieto-Alhambra, lead author of the study. “But even at age 4 we’re already seeing longstanding impact. Fractures are not killers, but they do impact quality of life.”

In addition, obese children are more likely to suffer long-term morbidity after acute ankle sprains when compared with children who have a normal BMI. (Tim, Grupp-Phelan & Ho, 2005) In other words, they have more trouble healing after an injury and face the real possibility that this injury will instigate a chronic medical problem that continues to trouble them. So whereas a healthy-weight child might sprain their ankle and be fully restored 2 weeks later, an obese child might sprain their ankle and then have to live with recurrent pain or stiffness from that injury for years to come.

Obesity & chronic pain
Parents who neglect a child’s diet and exercise are also setting their children up for a lifetime of increased pain, something that by itself should be cause for extreme concern. Stovitz et al. (2008, p. 489) report that among “obese children and adolescents, musculoskeletal pain was common and, in the knee and hip joints, was positively associated with extra bodyweight.” (emphasis ours) The amount of pain children reported was directly tied to how much they weigh, with the likelihood of a child experiencing recurrent pain increasing with each step in their BMI. Thus, “children with hip, knee or ankle pain had a significantly higher BMI than those children that did not have pain.” (ibid, p. 490)

The aforementioned authors also note that when obese people lose weight, the amount of pain they experience decreases, showing that this musculoskeletal pain has a direct link to the excess pounds. The study also discovered that older kids experience more pain, suggesting that chronic pain tends to first occur in adolescence and becomes progressively worse as a child gets older.

You would get upset if your child were coming home from school everyday with scrapes and bruises, because it would hurt you to see them in pain. Parents who allow unhealthy lifestyles which lead to obesity set their children up for a lifetime of potential pain in the form of chronic joint Pain, muscle aches, and chronic headaches. It should bother them just as much as if someone were pushing their child down on the Playground every day.

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