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All high school sports injuries are not created equal

September 3, 2009 |  2:03 pm

As the kids head back to school they'll also head back to team sports. So brace yourselves, moms and dads, for the inevitable injuries that can come with that.

Hrntuhkf A new study sheds some light on which sports are more likely to produce severe injuries, derailing athletic participation for weeks. Injury data on nine sports were collected during the academic year from 2005 through 2007 in 100 high schools nationwide by researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine and the Center for Injury Research and Policy in the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, both in Columbus, Ohio. A severe injury was defined as one that resulted in losing three weeks or more of sports participation. During that time, 1,378 severe injuries were noted, comprising 14.9% of all high school sports-related injuries. Severe injury rates were higher in competitions than during practices.

Football ranked as having the highest injury rate of 0.69 per 1,000 athletic events, defined as participation in one practice or competition. Second was wrestling (0.52), then girls' basketball (0.34), and girls' soccer (0.33). While the injury rate was higher in all boys sports versus all girls sports, when injuries in certain sports (soccer, basketball, baseball/softball) were directly compared, the results were different: Girls had a higher severe injury rate overall than boys, and girls basketball ranked higher in injuries than boys basketball.

The study also described which parts of the body took the most hits. Knees were on top, followed by the ankle and shoulder. The most common diagnoses were fractures, complete ligament sprains, and incomplete ligament sprains. Among all the severe injuries, 28.3% needed surgery.

The injuries were costly in other ways. On the whole, 43% of severe injuries meant a loss of more than 21 days, and almost 57% of the injuries resulted in medical disqualification for the rest of the season.

But such injury data shouldn't deter parents from allowing their children to play sports, says Dawn Comstock, a study co-author and assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine. "We have an epidemic of obesity in this country," she says, "and most kids today get the majority of their physical activity from organized sports. We should focus on making sports as safe as possible so kids can incorporate them as part of a healthy lifestyle."

Comstock recommends some tactics to reduce injuries and their severity: make sure appropriate protective gear is fitted properly, is in good repair, and is worn by the athletes; improve protective equipment by tailoring it to younger athletes; change rules if necessary to protect players, and educate coaches about signs and symptoms of concussions, which can go undiagnosed.

The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

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