The Youth Triathlete

  • Michael F. BergeronEmail author


Triathlon training and participation during youth can indeed be an attractive variable physical activity and diverse sport solution for encouraging health, fitness, psychosocial and character development, and academic and life success. But this can only be achieved if the underlying paradigm for the youth triathlete is underpinned by healthy and sustainable participation with sensible progressive development that is youth centered. Closely matching individual physical, athletic, and psychosocial/emotional development to the progressive demands and expectations of the sport is essential. This is, however, notably difficult for a youth athlete, owing to a constantly and uniquely changing base that is highly affected by normal physical growth, biological maturation, behavioral development, and their interactions. The model must also be individualized and promptly responsive to a young athlete’s changing needs, goals, and early stages of evolving problems. For the youth triathlete, the sport experience and success (however defined) will always evolve on an individual trajectory along an unpredictable continuum. And coaches, parents, and young athletes should appreciate that early achievement or struggle as a youth triathlete is not always predictive of continued engagement or future performance, achievement, or enjoyment in the sport.


Athletic development Injury risk Maturation Overload Performance Prevention Readiness Recovery 


  1. 1.
    Eime RM, Young JA, Harvey JT, Charity MJ, Payne WR. A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10:98. Scholar
  2. 2.
    Merkel DL. Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. Open Access J Sports Med. 2013;4:151–60. Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mountjoy M. Health and fitness of young people: what is the role of sport? Br J Sports Med. 2011;45(11):837–8. Scholar
  4. 4.
    Pfeiffer KA, Dowda M, Dishman RK, McIver KL, Sirard JR, Ward DS, et al. Sport participation and physical activity in adolescent females across a four-year period. J Adolesc Health. 2006;39(4):523–9. Scholar
  5. 5.
    Silva G, Andersen LB, Aires L, Mota J, Oliveira J, Ribeiro JC. Associations between sports participation, levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness in childrenand adolescents. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(12):1359–67. Scholar
  6. 6.
    Tenforde AS, Fredericson M. Influence of sports participation on bone health in the young athlete: a review of the literature. PM R. 2011;3(9):861–7. Scholar
  7. 7.
    Washington RL, Bernhardt DT, Gomez J, Johnson MD, Martin TJ, Rowland TW, et al. Committee on sports medicine and fitness and committee on school, health. Organized sports for children and preadolescents. Pediatrics. 2001;107(6):1459–62. Scholar
  8. 8.
    Brenner JS, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Sports specialization and intensive training in young athletes. Pediatrics. 2016;138(3).
  9. 9.
    DiFiori JP, Benjamin HJ, Brenner JS, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry GL, et al. Overuse injuries and burnout in youth sports: a position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48(4):287–8. Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jayanthi NA, LaBella CR, Fischer D, Pasulka J, Dugas LR. Sports-specialized intensive training and the risk of injury in young athletes: a clinical case-control study. Am J Sports Med. 2015;43(4):794–801. Scholar
  11. 11.
    McGuine TA, Post EG, Hetzel SJ, Brooks MA, Trigsted S, Bell DR. A prospective study on the effect of sport specialization on lower extremity injury rates in high school athletes. Am J Sports Med. 2017;45(12):2706–12. Scholar
  12. 12.
    Myer GD, Jayanthi N, Difiori JP, Faigenbaum AD, Kiefer AW, Logerstedt D, et al. Sport specialization. Part I: Does early sports specialization increase negative outcomes and reduce the opportunity for success in young athletes? Sports Health. 2015;7(5):437–42. Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bergeron MF, Mountjoy M, Armstrong N, Chia M, Cote J, Emery CA, et al. International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13):843–51. Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dohle S, Wansink B. Fit in 50 years: participation in high school sports best predicts one’s physical activity after age 70. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1100. Scholar
  15. 15.
    Engebretsen L, Steffen K, Bahr R, Broderick C, Dvorak J, Janarv PM, et al. The International Olympic Committee Consensus statement on age determination in high-level young athletes. Br J Sports Med. 2010;44(7):476–84. Scholar
  16. 16.
    Malina RM, Bouchard C, Bar-Or O. Growth, maturation, and physical activity. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2004.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bahr R. Demise of the fittest: are we destroying our biggest talents? Br J Sports Med. 2014;48(17):1265–7. Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dye SF. The pathophysiology of patellofemoral pain: a tissue homeostasis perspective. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2005(436):100–110.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Armstrong N, Barker AR, McManus AM. Muscle metabolism changes with age and maturation: how do they relate to youth sport performance? Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13):860–4. Scholar
  20. 20.
    Armstrong N, McManus AM. Physiology of elite young male athletes. In: Armstrong N, McManus AM, editors. The elite young athlete (medicine and sport science). Basel: Karger; 2011. p. 1–22.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Falk B, Dotan R. Child-adult differences in the recovery from high-intensity exercise. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2006;34(3):107–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ratel S, Duche P, Williams CA. Muscle fatigue during high-intensity exercise in children. Sports Med. 2006;36(12):1031–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Rowland T. Thermoregulation during exercise in the heat in children: old concepts revisited. J Appl Physiol. 2008;105(2):718–24. 01196.2007 [pii].CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Bergeron MF. Reducing sports heat illness risk. Pediatr Rev. 2013;34(6):270–9. Scholar
  25. 25.
    Bergeron MF, Devore C, Rice SG. American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health. Policy statement—climatic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(3):e741–7. Scholar
  26. 26.
    Falk B, Bar-Or O, Calvert R, MacDougall JD. Sweat gland response to exercise in the heat among pre-, mid-, and late-pubertal boys. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24(3):313–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    González-Alonso J. Separate and combined influences of dehydration and hyperthermia on cardiovascular responses to exercise. Int J Sports Med. 1998;19:S111–S4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Cheung SS, Sleivert GG. Multiple triggers for hyperthermic fatigue and exhaustion. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2004;32(3):100–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nybo L. Hyperthermia and fatigue. J Appl Physiol. 2008;104(3):871–8. 00910.2007 [pii].CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Bergeron MF. Hydration in the pediatric athlete—how to guide your patients. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015;14(4):288–93. Scholar
  31. 31.
    Bergeron MF. Training and competing in the heat in youth sports: no sweat? Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13).
  32. 32.
    Fortes MB, Di Felice U, Dolci A, Junglee NA, Crockford MJ, West L, et al. Muscle-damaging exercise increases heat strain during subsequent exercise heat stress. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(10):1915–24. Scholar
  33. 33.
    Bergeron MF. Youth sports—making it safe in the heat. ACSM Sports Medicine Basics. Indianapolis: American College of Sports Medicine; 2017.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Abrams SA. Calcium and vitamin D requirements for optimal bone mass during adolescence. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(6):605–9. Scholar
  35. 35.
    Gomez-Bruton A, Gonzalez-Aguero A, Matute-Llorente A, Gomez-Cabello A, Casajus JA, Vicente-Rodriguez G. Longitudinal effects of swimming on bone in adolescents: a pQCT and DXA study. Biol Sport. 2017;34(4):361–70. Scholar
  36. 36.
    Scofield KL, Hecht S. Bone health in endurance athletes: runners, cyclists, and swimmers. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012;11(6):328–34. Scholar
  37. 37.
    Valente-Dos-Santos J, Tavares OM, Duarte JP, Sousa ESPM, Rama LM, Casanova JM, et al. Total and regional bone mineral and tissue composition in female adolescent athletes: comparison between volleyball players and swimmers. BMC Pediatr. 2018;18(1):212. Scholar
  38. 38.
    van der Sluis A, Elferink-Gemser MT, Coelho-e-Silva MJ, Nijboer JA, Brink MS, Visscher C. Sport injuries aligned to peak height velocity in talented pubertal soccer players. Int J Sports Med. 2014;35(4):351–5. Scholar
  39. 39.
    Faulkner RA, Davison KS, Bailey DA, Mirwald RL, Baxter-Jones AD. Size-corrected BMD decreases during peak linear growth: implications for fracture incidence during adolescence. J Bone Miner Res. 2006;21(12):1864–70. Scholar
  40. 40.
    Collard DC, Verhagen EA, Chin APMJ, van Mechelen W. Acute physical activity and sports injuries in children. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008;33(2):393–401. Scholar
  41. 41.
    Micheli LJ. Overuse injuries in children’s sports: the growth factor. Orthop Clin North Am. 1983;14(2):337–60.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Verhagen EALM, van Mechelen W. Epidemiology of pediatric sports-related injuries. In: Hebestreit H, Bar-Or O, editors. The young athlete. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing; 2007. p. 143–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Verhagen EALM, van Mechelen W, Baxter-Jones ABG, Maffulli N. Etiology and prevention of injuries in youth competition contact sports. In: Wv M, Armstrong N, editors. Paediatric exercise science and medicine. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2008. p. 577–88.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Best TM, van Mechelen W, Verhagen E. The pediatric athlete—are we doing the right thing? Clin J Sports Med. 2006;16(6):455–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Minett GM, Costello JT. Specificity and context in post-exercise recovery: it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Front Physiol. 2015;6:130. Scholar
  46. 46.
    Peake JM, Gandevia SC. Replace, restore, revive: the keys to recovery after exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017;122(3):531–2. Scholar
  47. 47.
    Sargent C, Lastella M, Halson SL, Roach GD. The impact of training schedules on the sleep and fatigue of elite athletes. Chronobiol Int. 2014;31(10):1160–8. Scholar
  48. 48.
    Suppiah HT, Low CY, Chia M. Effects of sport-specific training intensity on sleep patterns and psychomotor performance in adolescent athletes. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2016;28(4):588–95. Scholar
  49. 49.
    Taylor L, Chrismas BC, Dascombe B, Chamari K, Fowler PM. The importance of monitoring sleep within adolescent athletes: athletic, academic, and health considerations. Front Physiol. 2016;7:101. Scholar
  50. 50.
    Bridge MW, Toms MR. The specialising or sampling debate: a retrospective analysis of adolescent sports participation in the UK. J Sports Sci. 2013;31(1):87–96. Scholar
  51. 51.
    Jayanthi N, Pinkham C, Dugas L, Patrick B, Labella C. Sports specialization in young athletes: evidence-based recommendations. Sports Health. 2013;5(3):251–7. Scholar
  52. 52.
    Naclerio F, Moody J, Chapman M. Applied periodization: a methodological approach. J Hum Sport Exerc. 2013;8(2):350–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ford P, De Ste Croix M, Lloyd R, Meyers R, Moosavi M, Oliver J, et al. The long-term athlete development model: physiological evidence and application. J Sports Sci. 2011;29(4):389–402. Scholar
  54. 54.
    Kiely J. Periodization paradigms in the 21st century: evidence-led or tradition-driven? Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2012;7(3):242–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Weissensteiner JR. The importance of listening: engaging and incorporating the athlete’s voice in theory and practice. Br J Sports Med. 2015;49(13):839–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SIVOTEC AnalyticsBoca RatonUSA

Personalised recommendations