Is your child’s phone or tablet hurting their performance in the Classroom and on the Pitch?
“If you spent as much time practicing your technique and skills for football as you do on your phones, you would be on your way to a professional career”Coach Jason
The idea for this article on poor posture came about after a recent football tournament I attended with our Academy and a comment I made off the back off a book I had just finished reading (‘The Gold Mine Effect’ on the reasons why some athletes become world class and others don’t, if you want to know the answer it’s basically they have spent more time practicing in a purposeful way and have the attitude to succeed).
The comment I made to a group of the players sitting around punching away on their phones was “If you spent as much time practicing your technique and skills for football as you do on your phones, you would be on your way to a professional career”, I got some interesting looks back, one or two switched off but for the most part they just smiled then went back to watching Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat.
Being the Head of Physical Preparation for the EFA and coming from a physical background, I started to sit back and really observe what was happening with their posture and how they were standing and sitting as they interacted on their phones… Horrific was an understatement and it really worried me, and led me to searching out some research on it.
The average head weighs about 10lbs (4kg-5kg) if the spine is sitting correctly and the eyes are up and staring straight ahead, look down tilting your head just a little about 15 degrees and the weight more than doubles, use the posture that I observed that the kids were in and you are now talking more like 60 degrees (the chin down near the chest) and it now increases to six, yes you read that right about 6 times heavier load having to be supported through their cervical spine (neck), this is equal to 24kg – 30kg.
Let’s think about your suitcase maximum weight at the airport that is generally about 20kg – it is actually lighter than the load I am talking about right now.
Want to be really surprised?…
If you get a chance try this out next time you are in the gym pick up a 4kg or 5kg weight, this is about the average weight of your child’s head when they’re standing upright and staring straight ahead (assuming they have good posture in the first place) …. Not too bad is it, now go over to the heavy weights and pick up the 26kg or 30kg weight (60-65lbs) …. This is the average weight that they are now having to support through their cervical spine, as they sit there with the head slumped forward staring at the screen…FOR HOURS!
In 2000, research showed that kids between the ages of 10-17 were spending up to an average of 3 hours in this sort of position per day and average weekly was climbing to 16 hours plus (1) remember this was back in 2000, kids push past those average times easily in 2016.
So what are the common complaints and results of all this?
5 Common physical results of staying in this posture (1)
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Arm and hand pain
- Leg pain
- Increased stress (leading to an increase in stress hormones), this will affect energy, sleep and hunger (quite often leading to sugar cravings due to the brains drive to increase its need for quick energy in the form of sugars).
3 Common psychological results associated with poor posture (2)
- Increased depression associated with the poor posture
- Increase in negative moods
- Decrease in self esteem
On the positive side Intervention studies have shown that with good posture these symptoms reduce and can disappear, in one study they even showed improved posture resulted in an increase in academic productivity (4)
How does this relate to performance on the pitch?
Well for a start, risk of injury goes up, poor posture leads to a greater chance of injury due to abnormal stresses on joints, ligaments and tendons, and movement restrictions being present. Being injured psychologically can be tough as well, feeling down about it will quite often lead to poor posture with slumping shoulders and a ‘don’t care’ or ‘poor me’ attitude leading to further postural problems.
Many experts in back physiology will tell you that poor posture leads to decreased neural output and even in some cases greater cases of muscle weakness to limbs and body parts being felt. Weaker muscles mean lower performance output (it can also affect breathing and hormonal patterns due to increased stress on the body system), all leading to reduced performance on the field, and in the classroom.
Instead of this
What are we doing at the Academy to try to combat this?
At the Academy we focus a lot on posture, for these very reasons.
By identifying the poor posture of kids we then focus on developing their ability to improve it. As part of our Injury Prevention Program EFA coaches ensure the kids perform certain exercises as part of their warm up. By targeting their posture specifically during this time, the kids can learn about and perform the exercises as part of the football session with their teammates, in a fun environment.
From an educational perspective we try to make the kids aware of their posture and the effects of it while using a phone or tablet, we know we can’t stop them using their phones it’s a part of today’s society, but we can continually make them aware of what it is doing to their spine, performance and educate them to spend less time on their phone or at least change their posture when they are using it.
Please see this video for one of the best Postural exercises you can do at home with no equipment. (Prone Cobra)
- International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 26: 337 – 347.
“Survey of physical ergonomics issues associated with school children’s use of laptop computers. Harris, C. and L. Straker (2000).
- Clin Psychol Psychother.2014 Nov-Dec;21(6):519-24. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1890. Epub 2014 Feb 27. Sitting posture makes a difference-embodiment effects on depressive memory bias. Michalak J1, Mischnat J, Teismann T.
- Health Psychol.2015 Jun;34(6):632-41. doi: 10.1037/hea0000146. Epub 2014 Sep 15. Do slumped and upright postures affect stress responses? A randomized trial.Nair S1, Sagar M2, Sollers J 3rd1, Consedine N1, Broadbent E1.
- Behav Modif.2009 Mar;33(2):263-73. doi: 10.1177/0145445508321324. Epub 2008 Jul 9. Effect of a classroom-based behavioral intervention package on the improvement of children’s sitting posture in Japan.Noda W1, Tanaka-Matsumi J.
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