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Is Injury the Price of a Healthy Lifestyle

June 18, 2003 -- Physical activity is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, but a new study suggests that living an active life may also come at a price. Researchers found an estimated 7 million Americans seek medical attention for sports-related injuries each year -- a figure up to 42% higher than previous estimates based on emergency room visits alone.

And those sprains and strains may be costing the health-care system and economy in a variety of ways. According to the CDC study, one fifth of schoolchildren and more than one quarter of working adults who suffered a sports injury that required medical attention missed one or more days of school or work because of the injury.

Researchers say the findings show that as physical activity is increasingly promoted as a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, sports injuries are becoming an important public health issue for both children and adults. As a result, injury prevention efforts need to go beyond targeting children and start addressing the risks faced by physically active adults as well.

"Everyone needs to be aware that any activity can lead to injury, and choosing an activity that is appropriate for you is important," says researcher Julie Gilchrist, MD, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC's injury center. "And people should also be aware that while you might enjoy a certain activity, there is most often a way to do it more safely."

Sports Injuries Hurt Adults, Too

Researchers say most previous studies have looked at sports injuries among children and adolescents, baby boomers, and those injuries that resulted in a trip to the emergency room. But this study looked at sports injury rates across all ages that required medical attention of any kind, such as at a doctor's office, urgent care clinic, or emergency room.

Using information gathered by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the study examined injuries associated with a sport or recreational activity that occurred from 1997 to 1999. The results appear in the June issue of Injury Prevention.

Overall, researchers found an average of about 26 sports injuries requiring medical attention were reported per 1,000 people each year. Strains and sprains were the most frequent type of sports injuries reported, followed by fractures (broken bones), cuts and other open wounds, and bumps and bruises.

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