Sports Injuries Put Youth at Risk

STATE – Did you know that more than half of the seven million sports and recreation-related injuries that occur each year are sustained by youth between ages five and 24? Nearly 996,000 injuries occur annually from family recreational activities such as biking, playground activities and roller sports.

In addition, sports-related injuries such as basketball, football and soccer account for more than 775,000 hospital emergency room visits each year. With more than 30 million kids participating in organized sports in the United States and countless more engaging in other recreational activities, the Arthritis Foundation urges parents to understand the risk of these injuries can lead to arthritis later in life.


“Today’s young athletes may become tomorrow’s osteoarthritis patients, unless parents and coaches take an active role in sports injury prevention,” said John H. Klippel, M.D., president and CEO, Arthritis Foundation.

According to one study, a single knee injury early in life can put a person at five times the risk for osteoarthritis (OA) later in life; likewise a hip injury could more than triple your risk. A recent study found that of female patients who had obtained an ACL injury by age 19, 50 percent had radiographic knee OA by age 31. For men, the average age for an ACL injury is 24. By age 38, 40 percent of men who have had an ACL injury have knee OA.

“These are soccer players,” said Stefan Lohmander, M.D. of Lund University in Sweden. “They had injuries playing soccer while playing at a high level. These individuals were very young and physically fit. Within 10 – 15 years after their injuries, 50 percent have knee OA. These are young patients, with old knees.”

OA affects approximately 27 million of the nearly 46 million people with arthritis. Already the nation’s most common cause of disability, arthritis affects one in five people and is expected to reach epidemic proportions by 2030. This catastrophe can be avoided through preventative measures, such as sports injury prevention, weight control and regular physical activity.

It’s important to note that physical activity is generally safe and is beneficial for reducing the risks for OA by strengthening the muscles that support and help stabilize the joints. In addition to individual and team sports, family recreational activities are healthy for all members of the family. These activities become harmful when basic steps in prevention are ignored.

The good news is that parents and coaches can help lower a child’s risk of arthritis from sports-related injuries by following a few of the Arthritis Foundation’s guidelines:

· Make sure equipment is in good condition. Use of proper sports equipment under safe conditions is recommended to prevent joint injuries and their long-term effect. Parents should make sure equipment and gear fit correctly and that play equipment is age appropriate. Also, be sure you replace worn out items. For example, a runner’s footwear should be replaced every 250 to 500 miles.

· Ensure training program or recreational activity gives attention to total body fitness. Sports practice and recreational activities should require movement in various areas of the body. Overusing a particular joint can cause immediate injury and future complications. Along with whole-body exercises, it’s important to ease back into a routine if you or your child have been inactive for a long period of time. For example, after a long summer break, children should begin exercising at home before their sport officially begins. The same holds true for other recreational activities. Ease into any new recreation such as roller sports, biking or playground activity.

· Ensure your child sticks to age-appropriate skills. In sports, as well as other recreation, it’s important to know what your child’s skill level should be for a particular activity at a certain age. Initiate an open dialogue with the coach to ensure his/her philosophy is appropriate. For example, an 8-year-old should not be pushed to pitch curve balls. That is more appropriate for a 14-year-old.

· Let injuries heal completely. Even when a joint has been injured, damage can often be avoided by allowing the affected area to heal completely before participating in the sport again. It’s important not to push your child to play while in pain. This could make the injury worse and increase the chances for long-term effects.

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