Pediatric neurodevelopment and sports participation. When are children ready to play sports?

Pediatr Clin North Am. 2002 Jun;49(3):505-31, v-vi. doi: 10.1016/s0031-3955(02)00003-2.


A fundamental knowledge of normal child and adolescent development is essential to providing a developmentally appropriate sports experience for the child, and to providing guidance to parents regarding their child's sport participation. This article reviews neurodevelopment, normal child and adolescent development relevant to sport participation, and developmental readiness to participate in sports. Neurodevelopmental maturation is a complex, continuous process. The sense of social comparison is not achieved until after 6 years of age, and the ability to understand the competitive nature of sports is generally not achieved until 9 years of age. By about 12 years of age, most children are mature enough to comprehend the complex tasks of sports and are physically and cognitively ready to participate in competitive sports with appropriate supervision.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sports / physiology*