Even with the best intentions and safety measures in place, accidents can and do happen in youth sports. Kids are going to skin their knees, jam their fingers, sprain their ankles, and so forth. Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injuries. Fortunately, most of these injuries are relatively minor and with a few days rest your child is right back in the game. We can’t wrap our kids in plastic bubbles every time they walk onto the field, but at the same time it’s important to be aware of what could happen so that in the event of an emergency we know how to react.
Whether you think that cheerleading a “real” sport or not, the numbers don’t lie. 65.1% of all severe sports injuries from 1982 to 2007 were related to cheerleading, and at the college level the percentage was 66.7%. Other studies have shown that 6% of cheerleading-related injuries were concussions and that 96% of those happened during stunts. In fact, Concussion rates for cheerleaders have increased by 26% over 10 years due to the increased amount of tumbling and throwing in competitive cheer. Like gymnasts, they are pushing their bodies to the extreme and no one would argue that hitting the ground after being tossed 20 feet in the air is going to feel good.
In addition to the expected bruises and bumps, football is the undeniable leading cause of concussions among youth athletes. Many youth football leagues are considering limiting full-contact among players until they are at least 14 in an attempt to prevent concussions among the players. The nation’s largest youth football program, Pop Warner, has seen participation drop 9.5% between 2010-12. The organization’s chief medical officer, Dr. Julian Bailes, cited concerns about head injuries as “the No. 1 cause” for the drop in players.
Terrifyingly, 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day. Researchers found 32% of high school football players said they had concussion-like symptoms over the last two years, but did not seek medical attention. More than half said they didn’t report it because they were worried it would mean they would lose playing time.
Who knew that soccer could be so dangerous? The top four time loss injuries in soccer are ligament injuries (to the ankle and knee) and muscle strains (to the hamstrings and groin). In the United States, 20,000 to 80,000 high school female athletes suffer from ACL injuries each year, with most injuries happening in soccer and basketball. And the risk of head injury is about the same in soccer as it is in other contact-collision sports, such as football and hockey. In 2010, more high school soccer players sustained concussions than did athletes in basketball, baseball, wrestling and softball combined, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio.
Research has shown that there is three times the increased risk of concussion and severe concussion in Pee Wee hockey leagues that allow body checking. This has prompted some youth hockey leagues to ban checking in U-14 divisions. However, data analysis by Safe Kids Worldwide suggests that a lower percentage of hockey players visited emergency rooms in 2011 and 2012 than kids who played football, soccer, basketball or wrestled. In addition to heavy padding and safety equipment, hockey is not a sport that can be played without a certain level of instruction first, which enhances the safety factor.
As said before, even the most cautious parents and coaches can’t stop accidents from happening. And unfortunately injuries are just a part of the sports world. Do you let your fear of injury influence what sports your child plays?