Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday, Another 8,000 Children w/ Sport Injuries

As we settle in to watch this years Super Bowl, Data Driven View Points focuses on sports injuries in children, a public health problem that sends about 8,000 children per day to emergency rooms in America.  Sports are a normalized obsession in Western culture and the percentage of time and attention it receives among our youth continues to grow.  With this comes health consequences related to an increase in serious sports related injuries.  Offered here are excerpts of recent articles regarding youth sports injuries and an article on one possible action that might spare some children from serious injury.  First, here is a blurb from 

Youth Sports Injuries Reaching Epidemic Levels, Experts Report

TUESDAY Dec. 7, 2010 -- Youth sports injuries have become rampant in the United States, with emergency departments treating more than 8,000 children a day for sports-related injuries, safety experts reported Tuesday.

As more children play school sports and in organized leagues, they are suffering an ever-increasing number of injuries, the experts from the National Athletic Trainers' Association said in presenting their grim picture at a conference in Washington D.C.
Statistics released by the organization also revealed that:
  • Forty-eight youths died as the result of sports injuries in the past year.
  • About 63,000 high school athletes suffer brain injuries every year.
  • High school athletes suffer 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The numbers led the association to issue a national report card on youth sport safety, giving the nation a C- for 2010.
"This is a neglected population in terms of focusing on health and safety during sports participation," said Marjorie J. Albohm, president of the 30,000-member organization. "The numbers of young people far outweigh the numbers of elite or professional athletes, yet we haven't given them the attention they deserve in terms of health and safety."
Sudden cardiac arrest accounted for nearly half the deaths in the last year, while concussion accounted for three, heat illness three, and exertional sickling (a result of sickle cell trait, causing collapse due to muscle breakdown) caused one, according to the organization.
And here is an excerpt from  

Concussion rate doubled in decade

  • There are between an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year,1, 2 leading The Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) to conclude that sports concussions in the United States have reached an "epidemic level."
  • 2011 study8 of U.S. high schools with at least one athletic trainer on staff found that concussions accounted for nearly 15% of all sports-related injuries reported to ATs and which resulted in a loss of at least one day of play.
  • According to the C.D.C., during the period 2001-2009 children and youth ages 5-18 years increased 62% to a total of 2.6 million sports-related emergency department (ED) visits annually, of which 6.5% (173,285) involved a traumatic brain injury, including concussion.  The rate of TBI visits increased 57%, likely due to increased awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of TBI.
  • For young people ages 15 to 24 years, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury behind only motor vehicle crashes.

Concussion rates are increasing in high school sports.

The current rates per 100,000 athletic exposures (an AE is one athlete participating in one organized high school athletic practice or competition, regardless of the amount of time played), according to the two most recent studies1,8 are as follows:
  • Football: Between 60and 76.88
  • Girl's soccer: Between 338 and 351
  • Boys' lacrosse: Between 30and 46.68
  • Girls' lacrosse: Between 201 and 318
  • Boys' soccer: Between 171 and 19.28
  • Boys' wrestling: Between 17and 23.98
  • Girls' basketball: Between 161 and 18.68
  • Softball: Between 111 and 16.38
  • Boys' basketball: Between 111 and 21.28
  • Girls' field hockey: Between 101 and 24.98
  • Cheerleading: 11.58
  • Girls' volleyball: Between 51 and 8.68
  • Boys' baseball:Between 4.68 and 61

Football players most at risk

  • At least one player sustains a mild concussion in nearly every American football game.
  • There are approximately 67,000 diagnosed concussions in high school football every year.9
  • According to research by The New York Times, at least 50 youth football players (high school or younger) from 20 different states have died or sustained serious head injuries on the field since 1997.
  • Anecdotal evidence from athletic trainers suggests that only about 5% of high school players suffer a concussion each season, but formal studies surveying players suggest the number is much higher, with close to 50% saying they have experienced concussion symptoms and fully one-third reporting two or more concussions in a single season.
  • One study estimates that the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion is as high as 20% per season.
  • According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, there were 5 catastrophic spinal cord injuries in high school football in 2010. 67.8% of all catastrophic injuries in football since 1977 are from tackling.
  • According to a study reported in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine: 
    • Football players suffer the most brain injuries of any sport; 
    • An unacceptably high percentage (39%) of high school and collegiate football players suffering catastrophic head injuries (death, nonfatal but causing permanent neurologic functional disability, and serious injury but leaving no permanent functional disability) during the period 1989 to 2002 were still playing with neurologic symptoms at the time of the catastrophic event.

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Finally, here is one suggestion to try and reduce the epidemic of youth sports related injury from 

Advocacy group wants 'hit count' to protect kids

Nancy Armour
Kids playing contact sports are suffering too many blows to the head, and an advocacy group is calling for a "hit count" to total them up before it's too late.
Just as Little League pitchers are on pitch counts to protect their elbows, a hit count would prevent the repeated blows that can cause concussions and lead to extreme brain trauma, Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, said Friday.
"The hit count is not an idea we own. Prominent researchers have been talking about it for a while," Nowinski said. "But we can push this to reality. ... We have to find a solution for the children, who are most at risk, and the guidelines will help us get there."
SLI works with the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and has been a leader in raising public awareness about the dangers of concussions and advocating for safer sports. The NFL has cracked down on flagrant hits in recent years, and is regularly toughening its rules for treating concussions. Players are prohibited from playing or practicing until they've been cleared by a medical professional, and Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday the league is considering having independent neurological doctors at games to examine players.
The dangers are just as great for children, Nowinski said _ maybe even greater. Pop Warner and a growing number of states now have regulations requiring players to be removed if they show signs of a concussion, and bar them from competing again until cleared by a medical professional.
But Nowinski said kids are still absorbing hits at a rate that would be considered dangerous for adults.
"We have to recognize the (physiological) differences," he said. "They're not little men, they're children."
Research may never be able to say what number of hits is dangerous or causes brain trauma, Nowinski said. But high school football players may take an average of 1,000 hits a season, SLI said, with some absorbing as many as 2,500.
And most kids are playing more than one sport.
"We'll have to have the guts to put down a number on paper and say, `This is a rational goal. This is what kids should be under,'" Nowinski said.
The initiative is getting some high-profile support, with Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday appearing at Friday's news conference. Saturday played a key role in the NFL's rules changes as a member of the players' union executive board. Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is also involved, as is former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski, now a member of SLI's board.
"We need to take it out of kids' hands," Saturday said. "It's us as adults that have to encourage our children and we have to be the ones to make a standard for our kids. They can't advocate for themselves."
The Sports Legacy Institute plans to sit down this spring with youth sports organizations and medical experts, including head trauma expert Dr. Robert Cantu, to come up with hit count guidelines. There should be limits for each day, week, season and year, as well as required rest after minimum exposure to brain trauma. The guidelines would not be limited to football, either, applying to other sports such as soccer, ice hockey and rugby.
Once the guidelines are established, it would then be up to the sports organizations to implement them, ideally beginning in 2013.
"Nobody wants to think about this aspect because football is so fun to watch and so fun to play," Nowinski said. "But we have to address the issue."
And the more organizations that are involved, the better, Nowinski said. Some youth groups are hesitant to impose restrictions or limits because they don't want to drive off children _ or their parents.
But if everyone is adhering to the same standards, that won't be an issue.
"We're not anti-football," Nowinski said. "But we are pro-child."
Follow Nancy Armour at
The Associated Press
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