Participating in sports is a great way to stay active and develop a multitude of skills from teamwork and discipline to self-respect. However, playing safe is critical to not only staying in the game today, but also throughout life. While athletic participation is on the rise, so is the incidence of youth and childhood sports injuries. Most are aware of a sports injury when it occurs to a professional athlete, but few understand the life ramifications when a child gets a major athletic injury at an early age. Lifelong and ongoing issues can ensue that may lead to a lack of physical activity and an increase in the chance for obesity and other health problems in adulthood.
First, let’s take a look at the facts: more than 7 million high school students participate in athletics, resulting in an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 physician office visits. An estimated 30 million children participate in sports resulting in 1.8 million emergency room visits for athletic injuries annually.
While certainly many of these injuries are traumatic, it has been estimated that close to half of these injuries are overuse in nature. The reasons for this trend have yet to be determined, but are likely attributable to the increase in children and youths specializing in specific sports and even positions – without allowing the usual rest gained during cross-training or an off-season. These overuse injuries can often have long-term consequences well into adulthood, including tendinitis, arthritis and chronic pain.
It is not surprising that the sports with the most injuries are the contact sports: football, rugby, wrestling and hockey. However, sports like soccer and basketball are more commonly played – resulting in a large injury load as well. The majority of injuries are to the lower extremity: knee and ankle. The knee accounts for 30% of serious injuries and more than 50% of injuries resulting in surgery.4 These injuries, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, can result in significant cost to the individual as well as the health care system.
As you can see, if we can prevent kids from getting hurt or burned out during athletic participation then they are more likely to remain active throughout life and achieve the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. In addition, research has shown that kids who participate in sports are more likely to stay in school and receive better grades. It is for this reason that the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and several other organizations, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, SAFE Kids USA and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association are launching the STOP Sports Injuries campaign. STOP, or Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention is a campaign designed to educate coaches, parents, athletes and healthcare providers on the importance of sports injury prevention while keeping kids active and involved in sports and physical activity for a lifetime. Do you want to learn more about this program and how you can get involved in your local communities? Visit http://www.sportsmed.org/stop and help keep kids in the game…for life.
What else needs to be done to make sure that physical activity is safe for children and adolescents?