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According to a Safe Kids Worldwide organizational survey of ER visits, a child visits a hospital emergency room in America every 25 seconds due to sports-acquired injury. This means that over one million ER visits per year are associated with youth sports injury occurring on the playing field, including from cheer-leading.

Quick Facts about Child Sports Injuries

  • In 2012, 1.35 million youths were seen in hospital emergency rooms for sports injuries
  • Every three minutes, a child is seen by an ER doctor for sports related concussion
  • Kids aged 12 to 15 suffer the majority of concussions, at 47 percent
  • Football causes the most injuries to kids, with 394,350 occurring each year
  • Football is also the cause of the most concussions for child athletes, with 40 occurring per 10,000 athletes in a given year
  • Wrestling is the second most dangerous sport, with 15 concussions per 10,000
  • Cheer-leading is the third most frequent cause of childhood concussions, with 12 per 10,000 kids
  • 31 percent of all ice hockey injuries are concussions
  • Injuries to the ankle are most common for non-concussion ER visits, with head, finger, knee and face closely behind
When Playing Causes Injuries to Kids
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Kids will be bumped and bruised when engaging in sports. But over 1.35 million youths in 2012 were severely injured enough to be sent to an emergency department. Of these visits, the top injuries among 6 to 19 year olds included:
  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Fractures
  • Contusions
  • Abrasions
  • Concussions

These injuries cost more than $935 million in healthcare expenses each year, as reported by child advocacy non-profit Safe Kids Worldwide.

Safe Kids Worldwide president and CEO Kate Carr said, “Far too many kids are arriving in emergency rooms for injuries that are predictable and preventable,” adding that one in five kids who go to an emergency department of a hospital is there for sports-related injury.

Aaron Crane, a Phoenix personal injury attorney of Cantor Crane, remarked on these findings by saying, “Young bodies take longer to heal than adults’ do. Young athletes are also more vulnerable to these injuries because their bones are still not fully hardened. Knowing what we do now about adult sports injuries causing lasting neurological damage, our kids’ safety and well-being are not just at risk today, but for their future.”
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Team Sports Cause Many Childhood Injuries with Millions at Risk
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The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) reported more than 46.5 million children played 14 team sports in 2011. Those sports included football, cheer-leading, soccer and basketball, among others.

In 2012, the NEISS data reflected that 12 percent of visits to the emergency room were for a concussion, with almost half being in kids between the ages of 12 to 15. That is 76,925 concussions in children of these ages.

While concussion is one traumatic brain injury too many, Carr says, “We know a second concussion later can cause even more issues.”

Neeru Jayanthi, a sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, warns against thinking this view of child sports injuries is as bad as it gets.  He claims the actual number is likely far higher, because most kids go to urgent care facilities, a doctor or a sports medicine clinic instead of an emergency department at a hospital. He also clarifies that overuse injuries are not included in these reports, “about 25% of which end up being serious,” he says. Overuse injuries in child athletes usually occur to bones, tendons and joints as a result of repetitive motion during the same sports without adequate recovery time.

In Jayanthi’s own research, he and his colleagues found that child athletes playing one sport for more hours per week than their age are 70 percent more likely to have serious overuse injury. As examples of better conditions, a 10 year-old should not play more than 10 hours per week. A 12 year-old should not play more than 12 hours per week.

Attorney Crane advised, “Parents should hear these doctors’ reports loud and clear. Kids need to gain adequate rest and recovery after the specified number of activity hours in organized sports. Preventive and strengthening exercise are also important. A good coach or team leaders who are in tune with the kids and listen to complaints of pain will better protect children from injuries on the playing field.”

Crane adds, “Don’t forget about providing your child with the right size and quality of protective gear. Ensure they wear it during practice and games to help them avoid injury.”
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Girls Are More Vulnerable to Concussion than Boys
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The latest Consumer Product Safety Commission report through NEISS showed that sports involving both girls and boys result in a higher percentage of concussions for girls. As an example, 11.5 percent of basketball playing girls seen in the ER are diagnosed with concussions, while only 7.2 percent of male ER visits result in diagnosis of a concussion. 17.1 percent of female soccer players visiting the ER are diagnosed with concussions. Yet only 12.4 percent of boys receive this diagnosis for their ER visit.
Sports medicine physician Kathryn Ackerman of Boston Children’s Hospital says that “Doctors are still not sure why females experience more concussions. We’re still looking into it, trying to see if there are really genetic differences, differences in play, or differences in bio-mechanics, but we don’t have that link yet,” she said.
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Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cantor Crane for their insight into child sports injuries.
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