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Block That Injury

Even the youngest football players show up in emergency rooms during the season

SUNDAY, Oct. 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Even the youngest football players have to watch out for injuries on the field.

Studies have shown 15 percent to 20 percent of football players who are 8 to 14 years old are injured every fall as gridiron fever spreads across America.

That means more than 150,000 youths under the age of 15 are treated in the nation's hospital emergency rooms between August and December. Among tackle players on high school teams, the rate of injury has been reported to be as high as 64 percent.

Sprains and strains are the most frequent injuries among players of all ages. For young children, injuries to the arms, hands and shoulders are most common, while older players most often injure lower extremities. Knee injuries, which total approximately 92,000 each year, are common and often lead to lifelong pain and disability.

Concussions as a result of a blow to the head make up about 5 percent of reported football injuries in children. A player who has sustained a concussion is four to six times more likely to sustain another one. Experts warn that receiving a second concussion before the first has healed can be fatal; repeated concussions sustained over a long period of time can lead to serious, permanent impairments.

Today, all football leagues, from Pop Warner to the NFL, require safety equipment and prohibit tackling from behind and using the top of the helmet to tackle. Before these safety measures were in place, many more players sustained disabling injuries. These measures have also reduced deaths among football players by more than 75 percent.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have a complete physical exam before beginning to play football. In addition, the academy encourages parents to make sure a child wears all the required safety gear for all practices and games, including a helmet, pads, mouth guard, cleats and athletic eyewear if the child wears glasses or contact lenses.

More information

Keep your child in the game by learning more about injury prevention in youth athletics from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics
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