Sports Injuries in Children

W. Steven Pray, PhD, DPh; Joshua J. Pray, PharmD candidate


US Pharmacist. 2004;29(10) 

In This Article

Prevalence of Sports Injuries and Epidemiology

In recent years, medical and lay media have publicized the epidemic of obesity in Americans. Further, the last four decades have seen a disturbing increase in sedentary lifestyles in adults. Youth are also more sedentary, largely due to the influence of television watching and hours of indulgence in video games and online chats, activities that neglect cardiovascular fitness and do not exercise major muscle groups.

Combating this trend is the push to encourage kids to participate in various sports. At this time, at least 25 million children engage in school-sponsored sports.[1,2] About 20 million children play in extracurricular, organized sports. The downside of a healthy focus on sports is that injuries in children will occur. Thus, pharmacists need to counsel youth and their parents about these problems.

Each year, sports cause up to seven million injuries in Americans.[3] One study found the most common cause of pediatric injuries was sports/overexertion.[4] With the highest incidence of sports injuries, children ages 5 to 15 have 59.3 injuries per 1,000, compared to 25.9 injuries per 1,000 in the general population.[3] The second highest group is children ages 15 to 24, with a rate of 56.4 per 1,000. More than one third of children suffer sports-related injuries requiring treatment from a doctor or nurse.[2]

Males experienced more than twice the injuries of females in a U.S.-based study.[3] However, a Scottish study found that the difference was somewhat sharper, with the injury rate for boys ages 5 to 16 being 2.5 times that of girls the same age.[5] The peak rate of injury occurred at age 12 in girls but age 14 in boys. Whites incur 1.5 times more injuries than blacks.[3]

The relationship between age and sports injuries is interesting. The injury rate for prepubertal children in sports such as football is much lower than that of postpubertal children. One might predict the opposite, but the reason for the greater rate of injuries with increasing age is corresponding increases in size, speed, and strength, all leading to greater impact.