Odd movement in kids

Posted on March 20, 2015

(Last Updated On: March 27, 2016)

This was an email exchange I thought was worth posting.

“Hi Brian,

I just wondered if you can give me some advice about my nearly 9yr old son. He has retroverted hips. Both. Fairly pronounced. He was unable to ride a bike as couldn’t get both feet forward on the pedals.

Through Physio/stretches, an osteopath- who is incredible and daily massage (from me) we have seen some good improvement in his motion. But as you say there is a limit to what we can change as it is structural not muscular.

He has always been keen on PE and teachers report he tries incredibly hard, but he has real limitations in football/gymnastics etcetc. Until now he has been fine, but apparently his classmates are teasing him (and I am speaking to school about this). He has asked he to help him run. He can run- but prefers to bounce (like a gazelle) as he says it makes him go faster- hence the jokes. And he says he can only do it for few minutes until his hips hurt.

The consultant says the pain he describes is muscular not impingement.

So my question- have you heard of this before? Is he too young to start running training?- if not is there a program/app like couch to 5km, that you recommend?

Have you heard of surgery this young? And have you seen good results post surgery?

Sorry if this is rather random, but you explanations of retro version are the best I’ve seen and you seem to be interested in this area.

Hope you are having a good weekend.

And thanks for reading this,”

Hey [redacted],

Nice to meet you.

First, I would give this a read if you haven’t already: http://b-reddy.org/2014/02/18/some-amazing-new-surgery-or-a-sign-of-the-times/

It hits a bunch of your questions. I will mention the caveat though of I don’t have much experience with this. (From a surgery perspective.) Which is part of the rub…nobody does.

This can be tough to hear for some, but there are a few out there where running is something that will never agree with the person. That doesn’t mean your son is in this camp. But some are. And then others appear that way only for a while.

I actually have one client who has some very odd hip structure for a male. He had issues with running all the way up until he was in college. Eventually he decided he would run every couple days, as long as he could, until pain set in. Then the next time he would try to run a little further before pain set in. He’s now in his 30s and runs with no problems, and has been doing so on and off for over a decade. (He actually has anteverted hips, not retroverted.)

In his case, it may have been he body wasn’t ready to handle the loads of running until later in life. Or he had growing pains. (I personally had this. It made running unbearable for a while.) Tough to know. I had a roommate in college, who I went to high school with, who had to stop running for a few months because he actually broke a growth plate while in track. A couple years later he was the state long jump champion. His body needed some time.

I always lean heavily against surgery, and people like this are one reason why. Predicting the future is tough, and in the process you may go through a crazy surgery or two, not knowing all along you’ll be running with no problems in the future regardless.

Any distance running more than maybe a mile is probably too much for a 9 year old. That should be reserved more for the teenage years. Up until high school (~14), most of what kids should be doing should be play oriented. Getting a feel for how their bodies move, trying new things, never over doing it on any one sport, things shouldn’t be too tiring or competitive, etc. Variety is really a great thing for them. Any dedicated training should be more general movement training, opposed to dedicated training for one activity.  (You always want some variety, but the younger they are, typically the more variety you want.)

Another story I’ll say is there is a track athlete, Michael Johnson, who was made fun of for a long time because he ran like a duck. He has tons of stories about being made fun of, people talking about changing his form, etc. For 12 years he held the 200 meter world record, and he *still* holds the 400 meter world record (~20 years), which is an eternity based on the progress people have made in sports the last few decades.

Point of the story is there is no right way to move. Some people do great looking a bit odd, whereas some truly do need to change things. Most kids, as long as they aren’t confined too much, will naturally find their patterns. (It’s more later in life, teenage into young adult, where things start to go awry.) There is a certain degree of letting them find this on their own, rather than forcing them to look a certain way. Many sport coaches do not get this.

Michael Johnson video here, you’ll see on the first straightaway, they do a front shot, his head bouncing side to side:

I hope that’s helpful.

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