Let another reason to encourage martial arts participation in children!

Bone density and bone strength is a critical component of musculoskeletal health, and becomes increasingly important as we age. We know that activity, and in particular high intensity weight-bearing activity such as jumping, has a positive impact on bone density, and that the window for optimal bone deformation is in the pre-pubescent period (Kannus et al., 1995). We also know that these changes can last for decades after the individual has ceased that particular activity (Warden et al., 2005).

Many of these activities, however, involve primarily loading of the lower limb. We know that from research by Drozdzowska et al that chronic punching results in improved bone density in the hands and wrists (Drozdzowska et al., 2011). The bony loading that occurs with full contact punching is the perfect stimulus to elicit upper limb bony adaptation in the critical period, setting children up for lifelong improvements in bone health!

Drozdzowska, B., Münzer, U., Adamczyk, P., & Pluskiewicz, W. (2011). Skeletal status assessed by quantitative ultrasound at the hand phalanges in karate training males. Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology, 37(2), 214–219.

Kannus, P., Haapasalo, H., Sankelo, M., Sievanen, H., Pasanen, M., Heinonen, A., Oja, P., & Vuori, I. (1995). Effect of starting age of physical activity on bone mass in the dominant arm of tennis and squash players. Annals of Internal Medicine, 123(1), 27–31.

Warden, S. J., Hurst, J. A., Sanders, M. S., Turner, C. H., Burr, D. B., & Li, J. (2005). Bone adaptation to a mechanical loading program significantly increases skeletal fatigue resistance. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 20(5), 809–816.

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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