Health Notes December 2014
● By Aimee Cormier
by Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
In 2011-12 there were approximately 7.7 million high school students who participated in athletics in the U.S. Recently, it was reported that three high school football players’ deaths are believed to be related to football injuries. While we all know the need for and benefits of an active lifestyle, what do the statistics say about the risks of playing high school sports? This is the question I have pondered over the last few weeks after watching the news and seeing my own son suffer a sports related injury. As a family practitioner I pride myself on practicing evidence based preventative medicine. This led me to doing my own research on what the facts say when looking at injuries that occur in high school sports and specifically football.
Football has been portrayed as a particularly violent sport. In researching I aimed to compare the injury rate of football players to other high school sports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) helped fund a study which compiled data that was supplied by high school athletic trainers from across the country. The statistics in this article are based on this data which was reported by Dr. Comstock of the Colorado School of Public Health and the Center for Injury Research and Policy based of Columbus, Ohio.
Close to 50% of all high school boys and girls sports injuries are incurred in football. The sport with the second highest rate of all injuries combined is girls and boys basketball and third would be boys and girls soccer. Head, face and concussions were the most common type of injury incurred in all high school sports with a distant second being ankle and third is knee injuries. Of all sports injuries, 7% required some form of surgery. There was no difference when looking at the grade level that injuries occur in boys but there was a 10% decrease in injuries when comparing freshman to senior girls. These statistics only compared football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer and wrestling. Of note football teams do comprise the largest amount of athletes and do encompass year round training and playing.
In conclusion, what each parent must decide is: are the risks of playing a sport worth the benefits? Sports can teach our children valuable life lessons, such as the importance of discipline, dealing with success and failures, and team work, to only mention a few. Children are inherently more prone to injury as shown by the fact that unintentional injuries occur in one out of every nine children. As every parent can attest, kids = injuries. But how much is too much?