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Children's Health

Toddler wrestling

10/15/2008

Question:

My son is not quite three years old and his father wants to enroll him in wrestling, which I am not comfortable with. I am all for physical activity, however I feel that at this age teaching him wrestling is not only dangerous because of physical harm that could occur from the sport, but this is also a time when I am teaching him to share and that we keep our hands off of others even when we are upset with them. Since he is so young I don`t feel that having him in wrestling at this time in his life is the right choice, if wrestling is a sport that he would like to participate in when he is older, I would support my son. I am looking into whether or not there are negative effects for toddlers aside from physical harm such as increased and displaced aggression due to the introduction of wrestling as a sport at this young age. I would really appreciate any insight you can give in this matter because I am very concerned and apprehensive about him wrestling at three years old.

Answer:

Thank you very much for the questions.  Certainly, it is important that children engage in various types of physical activities in order to improve their health.  At 3 years of age, most children will benefit from unstructured 'free-play' that allows them to run, jump and climb. Programs that  offer some instruction along with free-play (ie. soccer, tumbling, and swimming) offer some exposure to athletics without emphasizing competition.  In my opinion, wrestling would not fall into this category.  Wrestling is a sport that requires a lot of strength, discipline and a certain temperament. Three year old children do not have these qualities.  Thus, I would not recommend that your son participate in wrestling at this time.  However, this is a discussion that you and the father should have with your son's pediatrician.

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Response by:

Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc Stephen E Wilson, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati