As America gets fatter, its children suffer. New research shows foot, knee and hip pain are all prevelent in obese children, and contribute to a lowered quality of life.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 years old in the U.S. who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008.

The new research by Sharon Bout-Tabaku, M.D., and colleagues, from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University, shows that obese children with lower extremity pain have worse physical function and poorer psychological health than obese children without lower extremity pain, according to a press release from Springer, which published the research.

The researchers examined the medical charts of 175 obese children; of those, 51 reported lower extremity pain while 124 had no pain. The medical records included data on age, sex, race, puberty stage, lower extremity pain, physical function, psychosocial health and physical fitness, the press release noted.

Although poor physical fitness was not related to having pain, children who reported lower extremity pain scored lower on physical function and psychosocial health than those who felt no pain. In addition, as the severity of obesity increased, there was a progressive decline in physical function, psychosocial health and fitness scores among those who reported lower extremity pain.

The findings appear online in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, published by Springer.

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