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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.

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.

Besides comparing injuries among sports, the study showed percentage rates for the comparative frequency of each type of injury (general trauma, fractures, etc.) within a given sport. For example, in baseball, sprains accounted for 16% of all injuries.

Following is a summary of study results for baseball, softball, basketball, football, and soccer:

Baseball and softball. The proportion of baseball injuries requiring surgery was nearly the same as that for football. Baseball and softball had the highest rate of fractures (8.8%), while baseball had the lowest rate of knee injuries (10.5%).

Basketball. The highest proportion of surgeries was for girl's basketball (4.0%). More than one-third of the injuries for both boys and girls were to the ankle and foot and occurred while players scrambled for loose balls.

Football. Football had the highest rate of injuries compared with the other sports. During the 1995 season, 39% of varsity football players were injured, but the severity of injuries had decreased compared with a 1988 study. Most injuries were to the hip, thigh, and leg, followed by the forearm, wrist, and hand. During games, the offensive lineup had 55.5% of injuries, the defensive team, 35.8%, and special teams, 4.3%.

Soccer. Of the 10 sports surveyed, the highest frequency of knee injuries was in girl's soccer (19.4%). Nearly one-fourth of the boys and girls playing soccer had at least one time-loss injury during a season. Nearly one-third of soccer injuries were to the ankle and foot.

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