Children and the Effects of Obesity on the Musculoskeletal System

Oct 14, 2010, 08:15 ET from United States Bone and Joint Decade

ROSEMONT, Ill., Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An epidemic of childhood obesity can have a devastating impact on a child's musculoskeletal system, the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade says. Extra weight stresses growing bones, causing pain and interfering with normal growth and development.


"Nationally, we are seeing more muscle and joint disorders," says Paul Esposito, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. "But it is more common and requires more invasive therapies in significantly overweight children."

"Not only has the incidence doubled over the past 20 years in some parts of the U.S. and the world," says Dr. Esposito, "but it is occurring at a much younger age than in the past."

While families understand that obesity in children can contribute to heart problems or lead to diabetes, "we fear they're overlooking the potential impact on their child's joints, muscles and bones," says Dr. Esposito. "Because children are continually growing and their skeletal systems developing, issues that result can cause significant pain and a risk of disability."

Creating public awareness and education about this growing health issue is a goal of Bone and Joint National Action Week, Oct. 12–20, 2010.  

Impact begins early, affects adolescents

Today Samantha Stuefer of Lincoln, Neb. is an active, healthy 12-year-old. But as a child she developed Infantile Blount's Disease which is a severe bowing of the legs, an orthopaedic condition that leads to leg deformity associated with childhood obesity.

In Samantha's case, she developed hip problems at the age of six and spent months in a cast and wheelchairs after developing complications related to her weight.  

For Jalal Awad, an 18-year old college student, a problem with his left leg was limiting his ability to walk and attend classes. He was referred to pediatric orthopaedic specialists Dr. Alice Chu and Dr. David Godfried at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases Center for Children.

Jalal also has Blount's disease and underwent gastric banding to tackle his weight issues (he weighed 420 pounds).  Today, he can walk distances without knee pain. "Jalal's case is an example of how childhood obesity can lead to a serious orthopaedic condition," says Dr. Chu.

National Action Week is observed by the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, which aims to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health, stimulate research and improve quality of life. For more information, visit

SOURCE United States Bone and Joint Decade