The argument for the safety and health of children in any sport is as relevant today as any other time in our history. Girls in gymnastics with multiple tendon ruptures and broken bones may out number the boys playing football with joint and head injuries. However, I do not know of any clinical data to support the idea that powerlifting is any more dangerous than either of the previously mentioned sports. This article is one that provokes the "what the hell is the problem here" gene in me. It simply doesn't make sense to target this kid or the sport any more than "Friday Night Tykes" on the new Esquire Channel.
Meet Jake Schellenschlager. He's 14 years old. And he can deadlift more than two times his body weight.
A profile in The Washington Post spotlights Schellenschlager and the challenges inherent in his chosen sport. He's one of thousands of young powerlifters across the United States who are able to lift enormous weights far heavier than their own frame. (Powerlifters are not the same thing as bodybuilders, who focus more on appearance than on lifting for its own sake.)
Schellenschlager weighs only about 119 pounds, but can deadlift 300. He's been lifting for the past two years under a coach's supervision. The Post notes that children can begin competing in powerlifting competitions at 14, but that some children begin lifting at age 8 for fun.
The question for someone so young, of course, is whether lifting at such a young age can have detrimental effects later in life. "Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting sports are different because they usually are involving maximum lifts — the squat, bench press and the dead lift," Paul Stricker, a youth sports medicine specialist at the Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego, told the Post. "There is high risk to heavy maximal lifts or explosive lifts during their rapid growth phrase. That is our biggest caution. We just don’t recommend they do maximal lifts or explosive lifts until they have finished the majority of their growth spurt."
“He doesn’t feel he can be defeated," says his trainer, Mike Sarni. "It is that inner strength that tells him, ‘I can do this.’ Usually, you only get that in older, more mature people.”
Here's video of Jake lifting last summer:
So, your thoughts. Is 14 too young for this activity, or is it no more damaging than any of a half-dozen other sports kids could be playing?