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Part 3: Sport with Hypermobility: Keeping them moving!
What I didn’t really mention in the previous two posts (Part 1 & Part 2) was what to do if your child with hypermobility has to stop playing a particular sport. I’m guessing this might be the situation for a lot of families. The short answer is: keeping them moving.
I know all too well the disasters that can ensue when you remove your child from the sport they were doing – one which was actually, inadvertently, holding them together.
What the hypermobile body craves is muscle tone. Muscle tone helps keep hypermobile joints stable and prevents them from subluxing, dislocating or just getting a little out of alignment (which can also be extremely painful). Because the ligaments in people with hypermobility aren’t as useful as they should be, the muscles often take up the slack. That’s why they need to be as strong as possible.
If you had a child who was doing any level of physical activity, and you take that away, you’re left with a child who is going to lose muscle tone fairly rapidly. The BEST solution is to always try and replace the less ideal activity with a more ideal activity. Keep them moving. If you are going to take your child out of gymnastics, maybe you should be looking at replacing it with swimming. Remember, the choice of physical activity should be guided by your treating health team, but remember the rule: Take one out, add one in (where possible).
I like using this philosophy with anything that has to be removed from the life of a child with hypermobility. If you have to take away an activity, whether it be an organised one like a sport or just something they randomly play at home, make sure there is something to replace it with. The last thing we want is a) children who are having everything taken away from them, feeling that they are having everything taken away from them; and b) children whose bodies which were coping OK, to now fall apart because of the decline in muscle tone (due to the decline in physical activity/use of their muscles).
There are very few children for whom I could not find an appropriate physical activity. It might not be Olympic or elite training for a given sport, but just moving the body and using muscles is the key. Remember: keep them moving. Walking the dog, riding a scooter or bike, swimming lessons, playing at the park, hydrotherapy…. There is usually something that is appropriate – just remember, talk it over with your health team about your child’s specific needs & limitations and what to do if your child with hypermobility has to stop a sport.