You must be “this tall” to participate in this triathlon?

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© amanaimages/Corbis

© amanaimages/Corbis

An article that ran in the New York Times last week highlighted a growing trend of children—as young as age 3—participating in triathlons. And while it incorporated measured responses from a variety of people—an orthopedic surgeon warning parents to exercise caution with kids under age 7, a coach who specializes in training triathletes who emphasizes the importance of “age-appropriate distances,” and the director of Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports who stresses that starting so young can lead to early burnout in petite athletes—it also mentioned parents who were eager to lower the age restrictions (to as young as 18 months) or to make the kiddie events more rigorous.

Obviously, if mini-triathlons are well organized and overseen, they should pose no greater risk to kids than biking, swimming and running do independently, but with sports injuries due to overuse already on the rise in kids, perhaps some wariness is appropriate. As a USA Triathlon spokesman put it in the Times’ piece, “we need to put the brakes on it a little bit.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids begin participating in team sports at age 6, and underscores that, to avoid sports-related stress injuries, parents should “make sure your child is in the appropriate age and skill group for that sport.” At what age are endurance sports the right fit for kids—and should there be an age limit for tykes’ triathlons?

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