Imagine being having achieved the happy age of six years old, excited about getting into a sport you love: Football. And then comes the humiliating news: You're "too fat" to play. That's precisely what happened to a six-year-old Florida boy, reported the Huffington Post on August 21, when weigh-in day came and he was rejected as a contender. And it's led to a debate that epitomizes the dilemma of childhood obesity in the nation: Where do teachers and children's athletic leaders - and even pediatricians - draw the line between labeling children as overweight to help them...versus hurt them?
The situation: Glenda Hernandez of Putnam County, Fla., is angry because her six-year-old son Michael is 20 pounds overweight, according to the annual Pop Warner Little Scholars football weigh-in. Adding to her fury: A doctor signed off on his physical, which Glenda insists means the son is eligible. But the Pop Warner powers-that-be take a different approach. "I explained to the mother that he was not in the range of the weight requirement,” said Coach Wright. “Her statement to me was, ‘So you’re saying to me that my son is too fat?’ Unfortunately, this mother was the only one out of all the people standing there who used the word 'fat.'"
The range appears to be rigidly set with regard to weight versus height. In order to play for the adorably named Pop Warner Tiny Mites, kids must be between the ages of 5 and 7 years old and must weigh between 35 and 75 pounds. And that's where it's not so adorable. Because the rules do not account for how muscular the children are, it's possible that a child could be both "fat" in the eyes of the league and fit in terms of health.
Think this is an isolated incident in terms of young children and obesity? Although the rate is going down (thanks to Michelle Obama's "let's move" campaign), the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 17% (or 12.5 million) of kids and adolescents aged 2 - 19 years in the United States are now obese. Worth noting: A recent report showed that pediatricians as a group approve "fat letters" to parents that are sent when kids weigh in at school and are over the norm - for more information, click here.