Playing It Safe

Most people who play sports say they've been hurt, but some injuries are preventable

SATURDAY, Oct. 13, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Four out of five people responding to a new survey say they've suffered at least one sports-related injury, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says.

Soccer, track/jogging, basketball, bicycling and baseball had the highest reported injury rates in the seven-week-long online survey conducted during August and September. The survey prompted responses from 539 people who were asked questions about their sports participation, use of safety gear and injuries.

The results will be presented Oct. 17 at an AAOS meeting in New York City.

The information will be used to help determine what additional injury-prevention guidelines need to be developed as part of a public education effort to prevent sports injuries, says Dr. Stuart Hirsch, chairman of the AAOS communications council and head of the orthopedics department at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, N.J.

"Many sports injuries are preventable. If we're doing what's within our ability, if we've maintained good conditioning, use good equipment and if we are peer-matched, we'll reduce our injuries," Hirsch says.

Each year, more than 2.6 million people in the United States are treated at hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries at an estimated cost of $500 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some of the survey findings:

  • For adults, track/jogging was the source of most injuries, with a 16 percent injury rate. Basketball was second at 14 percent, followed by bicycling (10 percent) and baseball (8 percent).
  • Among young people (age 17 and younger), 25 percent reported a soccer-related injury. The injury rates among young people for basketball, bicycling and baseball were 12 percent, 11 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
  • Wrist injuries represented 16 percent of all injuries reported by young people, and 47 percent reported having had a wrist injury.
  • Once those 17 or under suffered a sports injury, 47 percent began to use safety equipment, 42 percent became more cautious, and 22 percent said they became less aggressive.

Experts say that although adults and older teens are capable of making their own enjoyment of sports safer, parents need to take charge of injury prevention for younger children.

It's estimated that about 3.5 million children 14 and younger suffer sports and recreation-related injuries each year in the United States, says Angela Mickalide, program director for the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

The injuries range from cuts and bruises, to broken bones and concussions, and about 775,000 of those children need treatment in hospital emergency rooms.

A national survey last year by the SAFE KIDS Campaign found that 1-in-3 sports-playing kids between the ages of 5 and 14 had been injured. About 80 percent of the parents of those children said they felt there was little or nothing they could have done to prevent the injuries.

"I find that amazing," Mickalide says.

SAFE KIDS believes half of all sports injuries are preventable and offers a number of suggestions for parents.

For example, make sure your children understand the basic rules and skills of a sport: They need to know how to jump properly in basketball and how to tackle in football.

Kids must also drink fluids before, during and after a game, and need to eat a well-balanced diet to ensure strong bones and muscles. And they should do some training for their particular sport to be in shape before a new season starts, Mickalide says.

Here are other recommendations:

  • Make sure all equipment is in good condition and properly fitted to your children.
  • Don't let your kids wear their glasses when they play sports. They should have shatter-proof sports goggles.
  • Children need to warm-up and stretch before they play sports.
  • Coaches or parents should inspect a playing field before a game to look for such hazards as large rocks, sharp objects or holes in the ground. It's also a good idea for teams to have a certified athletic trainer who can help prevent injuries and provide immediate medical care on the field, Mickalide says.

What to Do: For more information about sports injuries and prevention, go to this AAOS site about baby boomers and sports injuries. You can get information about children and sports injuries at SAFE KIDS.

SOURCES: Interviews with Stuart Hirsch, M.D., chairman, AAOS communications council, and chairman of the orthopedics department, Somerset Medical Center, Somerville, N.J.; Angela Mickalide, Ph.D., program director, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, Washington D.C.; AAOS Sports Activities Online Survey Report
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