Living the life you dream about is difficult for anyone. Still, it’s more challenging for people with scoliosis who want to compete in sports and make this passion into a career. Knowing which sports are safe for children with scoliosis may motivate patients to pick up a new hobby that’s good for them.
Remember that scoliosis is manageable. With treatment, many people live normal lives and pursue their aspirations. Find out which activities your child may excel at and learn about famous athletes with scoliosis who don’t let the condition hold them back.
Can Kids With Scoliosis Play Sports?
Exercise and general physical activity are good for everyone. While it may seem counterintuitive to allow kids with scoliosis to participate in sports, physical activity is actually essential to treatment. Sports don’t have a negative effect on the spine, especially if the patient makes certain alternations. It’s important for kids with scoliosis to maintain their lifestyles and keep active to ensure they enjoy a quality life.
Reasons Children With Scoliosis Should Play Sports
Playing sports is not only safe for kids—it’s encouraged. Physical activity can help children understand what their bodies need, which is especially important for someone with a spinal irregularity. Engaging in sports is good for people with scoliosis because:
- It strengthens muscles that support the spine
- It prevents stiffness
- It prevents muscle weakness caused by scoliosis
Best Sports for Kids With Scoliosis
Swimming is the best activity for people with scoliosis. Many healthcare professionals recommend this activity to patients. It provides people with scoliosis the same benefits as anyone. Swimming strengthens the spine in a weightless environment. Since water distorts gravity, there’s less compression on the spine. When people swim, they use their muscles in a more balanced and symmetrical way that may help spinal curves.
While people with scoliosis can swim, there are some limitations. Your doctor will likely discourage competitive swimming because it’s too intense on the back. Similarly, the butterfly stroke may not be safe for individuals with scoliosis. Prolonged hours in the pool may flatten the thoracic spine, which can worsen the condition.
Kids with scoliosis can play soccer because it’s a low-impact sport that helps strengthen the spine. Strengthening back muscles may counteract the flattening of the thoracic spine and preserve the natural curve.
Cross-country skiing is like skiing on flat land rather than down a hill. The gentle gliding motion used for this activity reduces shock to the vertebrae and works out both sides of the body. It supports a strong and balanced spine and keeps patients active throughout winter.
Patients with scoliosis can get a good cardiovascular workout from cycling. It’s a low-impact activity that’s fun to do with friends or alone. Mind your posture when cycling if you have scoliosis. You’ll want to keep your back straight and your head in line with your shoulders. For this reason, off-road biking isn’t recommended since it involves heavy impacts.
Yoga is calming and great for overall fitness. Stretching is wonderful for people with scoliosis because it increases flexibility, relieves tension, and restores their range of motion. Though some poses aren’t recommended, many yoga postures are excellent for targeting the curve in the spine, such as:
- Tree pose
- Cat/cow pose
- Mountain pose
- Downward-facing dog
Building muscle is essential for people with scoliosis because it helps support the spine. While it may seem like weightlifting is dangerous for kids with scoliosis, it’s possible with the right form. Patients typically start with a low weight and slowly increase their abilities. Additionally, it’s important to only do a few repetitions at a time and avoid lifting weights above the head.
Alternative Activities for Children With Scoliosis
No one knows exactly why, but scoliosis is more common in children who perform gymnastics or ballet. Many believe the moves associated with these activities cause the spine to twist, while others believe that people with scoliosis are naturally attracted to these activities due to their flexibility.
Regardless of the sport your child enjoys, they can likely continue with it after a scoliosis diagnosis. Still, they may need to find alternatives to the way they move. For instance, less time practicing is often necessary. Further, many moves performed by dancers and gymnasts hyperextend the back, which can damage the spine.
Famous Athletes With Scoliosis
It’s important to remember that children can still achieve great things if they have scoliosis. Few patients give up their dreams due to a scoliosis diagnosis. In fact, several athletes with scoliosis exist, and they are known for breaking records.
- Usain Bolt: Few people know that the fastest man in the world has scoliosis. While it heavily limited him early in his career, he eventually learned how to manage it and improve his spine so that it no longer bothers him. He maintains a strong back and core so that he can pursue his dreams.
- Natalie Coughlin: Diagnosed at the age of 30, Coughlin discovered she had a spinal curve of 27 degrees. Still, she’s won six medals, placing in every event she competed in during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is tied for most medals won by a female swimmer.
- James Blake: A retired professional golfer, Blake has been open about his experience growing up with scoliosis. He even attributes his drive and motivation to the strength he witnessed in children who were worse off than him. Until the age of 18, Blake wore a scoliosis brace for kids for 18 hours a day.
- Maritza Correia: An Olympic swimmer, Correia was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of seven and took up swimming to help with her treatment. In 2004, she was the first Afro-Puerto Rican to compete on the USA Olympic Swimming Team and retired a few years afterward.
Don’t let a scoliosis diagnosis discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Understanding how your body works is key for patients trying to improve their condition. Knowing which sports are safe for children with scoliosis can help you guide a patient to the right activities. Still, even ballet and gymnastics aren’t off the table if you learn how to keep your spine safe. Contact Green Sun Medical to learn more about treatments and recommendations for patients with scoliosis.