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Top Sports Injuries

Know the Risks of Sports and Physical Activity Injuries

Forty years ago, approximately 4 million young people participated in high school athletics nationwide, 7.4 percent of which were girls. Today this figure has nearly doubled to 7.6 million participants with girls making up 41 percent of total participants.

While more activity in a nation suffering from an obesity epidemic is altogether positive, it inevitably comes with increased risk of injury. Consider the following statistics.

  • According to Boston Children’s Hospital, about 20 percent of children and adolescents participating in sports activities are injured each year, and one in four injuries is considered serious.
  • According to SAFE KIDS USA, overuse injury, which occurs over time from repeated motion, is responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students. Immature bones, insufficient rest after an injury and poor training or conditioning contribute to overuse injuries.
bandage being wrapped onto a foot

Whether you are an athlete yourself or the parent of one, keeping sports injuries on your radar may be the key for prevention.

Acute or Overuse?

There are two basic types of sports injuries, traumatic (acute) injuries or overuse (stress) injuries.

Acute injuries, occur suddenly when playing, usually as the result of a sudden stop, twist, fall, or impact. They are common in sports like basketball, football, baseball, wrestling and soccer. Examples include wrist fractures, torn knee ligaments, ankle sprains and should dislocations.

Overuse injuries, also known as stress or chronic injuries, occur over time and are caused by starting an activity too quickly, using poor form or posture, having improper equipment (such as good running shoes), or pushing the body beyond what it’s ready for.

Overuse injuries are common in sports like running, tennis and swimming. Examples include tennis elbow, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis and shin splints.

What Sports Pose the Most Risk?

Propensity for injury varies sport to sport, though as might be expected, contact sports pose the highest risk. Football carries the highest overall risk of injury of any high school sport at 3.64 injuries for every 1,000 times the athlete participates in a practice or game, followed by wrestling at 2.18 and interestingly, girls soccer at 2.11. In sports played equally by both genders, prevalence of injury is almost always higher for females than males.

What are Common Injuries?

The most prevalent types of sports injuries include concussions and other injuries to the head and face, along with sprains and strains of the ankle, knee, shoulder, hip, thigh, upper leg and trunk. More serious knee injuries and wrist fractures are also common.

Do you know P.R.I.C.E.?

If you are injured while playing sports, The National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends calling a doctor if an injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness; you can’t put any weight on the area; an old injury aches or swells, or a joint feels unstable or strange. If you do not have any of these symptoms, it may be safe to treat the injury at home. Harvard Men’s Health Watch suggests using the acronym “P.R.I.C.E.” as a basic program for handling sports injuries at home.

  • P stands for “protection.” Protect small injuries by applying bandages, elastic wraps, or simple splints.
  • R stands for “rest.”
  • I stands for “ice.”
  • C stands for “compression.” In most cases, a simple elastic bandage will suffice.
  • E stands for “elevation.” Elevating an injured leg or arm drains fluid away from injured tissue and reduces swelling and pain.

On the Rise—Emergency Room Visits for Concussions

New data shows that concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) leading to emergency room visits have increased steadily. An analysis of hospital data from 2001-2009 by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that on average, the number of annual sports and recreation TBI-related emergency room visits has increased 62 percent among persons under age 19.

Activities associated with the greatest number of estimated sports and recreation-related TBI injuries varied by age group and sex. For males and females under 9 years old, TBIs most commonly occurred during playground activities or when bicycling. For persons aged 10-19 years, males sustained TBIs most often while playing football or bicycling, whereas females sustained TBIs most often while playing soccer or basketball, or while bicycling.

Common symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury include difficulty thinking clearly, headaches, blurred vision, nausea, poor balance, fatigue, and mood issues such as irritability, sadness, nervousness and anxiety.

Participants suspected of having a TBI should be removed from play, never returned to play the same day, and allowed to return only after evaluation and clearance by a health-care provider experienced in diagnosing and managing a TBI. Return to play is a critical decision because children and adolescents who have experienced a TBI, and who have not been properly cared for, are at an increased risk for repeat concussion, delayed recovery, and cumulative consequences of multiple TBIs. A person who has a loss of consciousness for more than one minute, a seizure or repeated vomiting should seek emergency care by a medical professional.

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