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The Child and Adolescent Athlete.
  1. ADAM BAXTER-JONES, Research fellow

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    The Child and Adolescent Athlete. Edited by Oded Bar-Or. (Pp 691; £62.50 hardback.) Blackwell Science, 1995. ISBN 0-86542-904-9 .

    With increasing emphasis placed upon excellence in sport, there is now a widely held belief that to achieve success, particularly at national or international level, training and competition should begin at an early age, well before the onset of puberty. Some are concerned about the possible negative effects of intensive training at such a young age. Much anecdotal evidence suggests cases of over training and competitive pressure leading to young athletes’ premature retirement from sport, although little scientific evidence has validated these impressions. In general, knowledge regarding physiological, psychological, and medical aspects of paediatric exercise has lagged behind that generated for adults. The editor of this encyclopaedia has gathered 46 experts from the world of paediatric exercise science, and produced a book that reviews much of this important area.

    This is the VIth volume of the Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine (an International Olympic Commission publication) and the first to focus on a demographic portion of the population. Each chapter reviews the current literature (references in some cases up to 1994) and discusses its themes, relating effects observed in young athletes to those observed in normal healthy children. At the end of each chapter the authors set out challenges for future research.

    The first six chapters form part 1 and outline the inter-relationships between a child’s growth and development, and aspects of physical performance, with the concluding chapter discussing such inter-relationships with reference to the search for talent in the young. Part 2 deliberates the trainability of children and adolescents. It discusses the effectiveness of training during preadolescence, emphasising the importance of lack of exercise on the growing child’s musculoskeletal system. This leads into the next section which discusses injury from overloading the musculoskeletal system. The importance of distinguishing between chronological and biological age is discussed, a recurrent theme throughout the book, in this case its relationship to matching opponents. Part 4 outlines other health concerns: nutritional, hormonal, congenital, and psychological. Issues such as socialisation through sport, self esteem, emotional stress and anxiety, and intelligence are outlined in part 5. Part 6 concentrates on the area of disease and exercise, focusing on asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and motor disability. The final part of the encyclopaedia comprises recommendations on assessing and interpreting the morphological and physiological characteristics of the young athlete.

    As stated by Professor Bar-Or in his preface, this book provides valuable reference material for professionals who are interested in the effects of exercise and sports on children and adolescents. Although directed to a broad audience, the book is most suitable for physical educators, coaches, and researchers in this field. The sports physician, general practitioner, or paediatrician may wish for more complete pathophysiology in certain sections. Notwithstanding this shortcoming, I recommend the book, as it offers a good overview of the subject, providing an excellent review of our current understanding. It is an excellent starting place for researchers looking for background and ideas for what needs to be done next in this important field of research.