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News Friday, October 20, 2017 Thursday, November 9, 2017 11:29 AM - Thursday, November 9, 2017 11:29 AM

Effects of obesity on the bone and joint health of children

Tips to help doctors and parents

Thursday, October 19, 2017 is World Pediatric Bone & Joint Day, and the U.S. Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI) and Shriners Hospitals for Children are urging doctors and parents to recognize the effects of obesity in children and to take action, to avoid lifelong challenges. Back and hip pain, and bowed legs and knock knees in boys and girls can indicate a possibility of debilitating bone and joint problems later in life.

The percentage of children who are overweight or obese has more than doubled over the past 30 years, from seven percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012. Obesity can affect bones and joints at a young age. If some common conditions, such as back and hip pain, and bowed legs and knock knees, are already apparent, the sooner they are treated the better. In addition, a child who is overweight may not consistently eat foods rich in vitamin D, calcium and other important nutrients which contribute to healthy bones and joints. And, the child's weight may lead him or her not to want to exercise and build bone mass, which is critical to maintain and improve their health, resulting in undue stress on the musculoskeletal system that can impair growth and contribute to serious childhood or lifelong conditions.

“As part of this initiative, we encourage parents and physicians to be aware of the effects of obesity in children, especially those symptoms of bone and joint problems due to obesity,” said Tracy Roberts, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Shreveport and USBJI board member. “We urge families and their physicians to take action for children to prevent lifelong challenges and allow them to live healthy and active lives."

The USBJI offers four fact sheets on recognizing the musculoskeletal effects of obesity in children: one for parents of girls, one for parents of boys, and separate sheets for primary care providers—one for patients who are girls and one for boys.

Among the signs of strain on the musculoskeletal system:

  • Back pain
  • Pain in the groin or inside of the thigh and knee, which may signal a significant problem with the growth plate of the hip
  • Bowed legs (where the knees bend outward). Some bowing of the legs is common in children age 2 and younger; however, an ongoing or worsening spread of the knees are not normal.
  • Knock knees, or knees bending inward or even touching, may cause early arthritis and knee, shin and foot pain.

If you notice any of these conditions in a child, especially if they worsen over time, please contact your health care provider as soon as possible. After an examination, which may include X-rays or other imaging, a diagnosis and appropriate treatment protocol will be determined.

About the United States Bone and Joint Initiative
The United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI) is the U.S. National Action Network of the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health, a multi-disciplinary initiative targeting the care of people with musculoskeletal conditions— bone and joint disorders. Its focus is on improving your quality of life as well as advancing the understanding and treatment of those conditions through research, prevention and education. Bones, and the joints that create function and movement, are connected by muscle and ligaments. Their state of health and how they enable you to lead an active and healthy life is what the Initiative aims to improve.

About Shriners Hospitals for Children
Shriners Hospitals for Children is changing lives every day through innovative pediatric specialty care, world-class research and outstanding medical education. Our 22 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate.

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and relies on the generosity of donors. All donations are deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.

Download our Kids, Bones, Joints & Obesity Tips materials:

For parents and patients:

Tips for boys
Tips for girls

For primary  care providers:

Tips for boys
Tips for girls