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Performance in all forms of motor activity related to sport performance improves progressively during the course of the childhood years as a consequence of normal growth and development. Whether (a) sport training can accelerate and ultimately enhance this biological development and (b) the existence of certain ages when training might prove to be more effective in improving performance, particularly early in childhood, remains uncertain. Physiological adaptations to endurance training in prepubertal children (improvements in maximal oxygen uptake) are dampened compared with adults, but enhancements of strength following resistance training are equally effective at all ages. The extent that intensive training regimens characteristic of early sport specialization in children can trigger physiological and performance adaptations may therefore depend on the form of exercise involved. Clearly, additional research is needed to enhance the understanding of the physiological responses to intensive sport training in prepubertal individuals.
Rowland is with the Department of Pediatrics, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA.