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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.

What the Research Shows continued...

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.

Types of Sports Injuries

Two types of injuries occur in kids' sports: acute and overuse.

Acute injuries are caused by a sudden trauma and include bruises, sprains, strains, and fractures. They often occur when an athlete falls, twists an ankle, or collides with another player. "How the player is handled immediately following injury is important," says Almquist. "If there's an athletic trainer or medical professional on hand when an athlete suffers a concussion or other injury, their care can prevent a minor injury from becoming a major one."

Repetitive motion and specialization in a single sport, instead of playing various sports according to the season, account for most overuse injuries. A prime example is "Little League Elbow," a term for an injury resulting from throwing in various sports, not just baseball. Also common are tears in tissue where tendons attach to the leg bone or heel bone.

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