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Health & Parenting

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Keeping Kids Playing Injury-Free

More kids than ever are being sidelined by sports injuries; don't let your child be one of them.

Sports Injuries Spiking

In 2003, more than 3.5 million kids aged 5 through 14 engaged in organized or informal sports activities were treated for injuries, according to the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. That's up from 775,000 kids in 1995. Experts cite several reasons:

  • Growing number of organized sports for boys and girls of all ages and increased participation.
  • Organized sports attracting a generation of kids who have great finger dexterity from video games but lower cardiovascular health than previous generations of kids.
  • Specialization and year-round play in a single sport leading to overuse injuries like strains and Little League Elbow.
  • Parents pushing kids to excel. "Some parents are living through their kids, and 25% of parents expect their ninth graders will be pros," says Almquist, who is also athletic training specialist for the Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Va.
  • Failure to rest after injury. "Some parents will doctor shop to find one who will clear their kid to play," says Almquist.
  • Parent volunteers not trained in proper coaching techniques or first aid.
  • Church and independent sports leagues without plans for events such as lightning or medical emergencies. "Whereas high school teams have a limited number of players and might employ an athletic trainer, church and independent leagues might have 300 to 500 players and no medical personnel," says April Morin, executive director of the National Center for Sports Safety (NCSS) in Birmingham, Ala.

What the Research Shows

"A lot more research needs to be done on youth and high school populations," says Almquist. "Most research is done on college kids, and it doesn't always translate well to younger populations."

NATA released a detailed three-year study in 1999 showing trends in high school injuries in 10 sports: boys football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys wrestling, girls field hockey, girls volleyball, boys soccer, girls soccer, boys baseball, and girls softball.

Overall, in every sport except field hockey, sprains and strains accounted for at least half the injuries. Of injuries requiring surgery, 60.3% were to knees. On average, more than half the injuries occurred during practices.

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