Is it Safe For Kids to Run Marathons?

Young Runner II

Is your son or daughter not into little league, karate and soccer? Well, you might want to consider adding a different sport to their schedule: marathons.

A recent NY Times article asks the intriguing question of whether it is safe for children to run for exercise, up to and including 26.2 miles--a marathon.

As it is described in the NY Times' article, two recent studies explore just this question. The conclusion on the safety of running for kids: mixed.

In one study, data from 1982-2007 Twin Cities Marathon competitors was analyzed. The injury rate of children participants, those between the ages 7 - 17, had a rate of injury half of what the adults had. This means children were injured less often than their adult marathon counterparts.

The researcher goes on to state:

No studies have linked distance running by young children to potentially serious overuse injuries like growth-plate disruptions or knee arthritis, [remarks] Dr. Roberts.

Yet, in a separate study documented that children runners were more prone to twisted ankles, scrapes and head injuries from falling, than their adult counterparts.  Jokingly some have recommended kids wear helmets while running. Yikes!

What do you think? At what age is it safe for children to run marathons?