While I only got to stay until lunch time, there were pearls of wisdom that really applied to our #orthomonth at Children’s Podiatry. I was an invited speaker on the Tips, Tips and when to refer for adolescent foot problems. This incorporated some of the less common but often overlooked conditions that can become problematic in teenagers. These include benign joint hypermobility syndrome, hyperhidrosis, tethered cord syndrome.

You can check out the SMA twitter feed on the fabulous presentation of the day covering load management, stress, the teenage brain, sleep, hormones, assessments, and complexities of different sports and how they impact the teenage body.

One of the recurring themes for the morning was about early specialisation and how or when we guide kids into one sport. This highlight from Prof Geraldine Naughton challenged us that while as parents and health professionals we can push for kids to try many different sports to distribute the load, the outside pressures on kids to specialize in one sport is pretty huge.

Dr Alex Donaldson also challenged the crowd (especially those of us in the research world) on when to engage clinicians when looking at how to prevent injuries. While there are some really cool preventative programs, these will never work in the “real world” if clinicians don’t adopt the changes or they aren’t workable. This puts clinicians in a really powerful position. One of end user but also as a HUGE influencer. If you’re a clinician and you don’t think the research will work in your clinic, you need to jump up and down until the researchers listen. Challenge them at conferences, ball them up in the breaks, make them listen! For our researchers, this is where it is so important to have our clinician hats on. If you are in pure research, you need to make sure are inception phase, you need to get into a clinic to see how it will work.

My favourite slide from the day though was from Dr Andrew Jowett. This really encapsulated for me what early specialization is all about. It’s a quote of someone on Twitter that I unfortunately can read to credit. It says:

“If your child could only study one subject at school you’d worry about their development & the missed opportunities for them to learn new skills. So why for some sports/coaches is Early Specialisation perceived as acceptable?”

As health professionals we are often looked to for this sort of advice. When do we help, and when do we hinder young people to engage in meaningful physical activity that won’t hurt them.