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Football Leads Youth Sports Injuries

But Head Injuries Strike Many Other Young Athletes, Too
By
And Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 26, 2007 -- Two new studies highlight the risk of youth sports injuries that student athletes may experience on the playing field.

One of the new studies focuses on football injuries in high school and college football players. The other study tracks traumatic head injuries in various sports.

Sports injuries can do more than sideline a player for a season. Some injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, can have effects that last a lifetime.

The bottom line: Don't play hurt, and don't try to shake off an injury to get back in the game. Seek medical attention instead.

Football Injuries Studied

The new study on football injuries appears in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Football is the top scorer when it comes to racking up sport-related injuries, according to the study. But high school and college players may face very different injury risks.

Researchers found high school football players suffered more than half a million injuries nationwide during the 2005-2006 season. And they were more likely to suffer season-ending injuries, such as fractures and concussions, than those who play collegiate football.

But college football players were nearly twice as likely to become injured during practice or a game compared with high school players.

Football Facts

Football is one of the most popular sports in the U.S. and is played by more than 1 million high school athletes and 60,000 collegiate athletes.

Previous studies have shown that football has nearly twice the injury rate as the next most popular sport, basketball. Yet researchers say this is the first study to compare injuries among high school and collegiate football players based on a national sample of more 100 high schools and 55 colleges.

The study found four out of every 1,000 high school football exposures resulted in an injury compared with eight out of every 1,000 collegiate football exposures.

But high school football players suffered a greater proportion of serious, season-ending injuries like broken bones and concussions, which accounted for about 10% of all injuries among high school players.

Other findings of the study include:

  • Linebackers and wide receivers were the positions most likely to suffer season-ending injuries among high school players.
  • Among college football players, offensive linemen suffered the most injuries, but the running back position had the greatest proportion of injuries for any one position.
  • The most common injuries among both high school and college football players were ligament sprains.
  • The lower leg, ankle, and foot were the most commonly injured body parts playing football.

Football Injuries May Be Preventable

“While football does have a high rate of injuries, injuries don’t have to be just part of the game,” says researcher Christy Collins, MA, research associate at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Columbus Children’s Research Institute, in a news release. “There are ways to reduce the number and severity of football injuries through targeted interventions.

“Because we observed high levels of ankle and knee injuries, we recommend increased conditioning of ankles and knees and rule changes aimed at protecting these vulnerable body sites. As most of the injuries to these regions were due to ligament sprains, targeted stretching exercises may also be beneficial.”

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