Almost Half of A&E Sports Injuries Involve Young People: Study

Peter Russell

November 02, 2018

Almost half of people who attended accident and emergency departments in two hospitals in England for sports-related injuries were children and teenagers up to the age of 19, according to a study.

The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine , also found that almost a quarter of sport injury-related hospital admissions involved young people in the same age group.

The study said that schools and public health departments in local authorities should target children in the first 4 years at secondary school with information about strategies on how to avoid getting injured while playing sport.

It said sports injuries placed a heavy burden on children, parents, schools, and on the NHS.

A&E Attendances

Researchers used emergency department data from two hospitals in Oxfordshire (John Radcliffe in Oxford and Horton General in Banbury) between January 2012 and March 2014. Hospital admissions data were analysed from January 2012 to January 2015.

Of the 63,877 accident and emergency attendances recorded, 11,676 were sport-related, and 5533 of those were for young people aged 0 to 19 years old. The researchers reported that 14-year-old boys and 12-year-old girls were most at risk of sustaining a sports injury.

Attendances varied by month, peaking in March for both sexes.

For boys, the main sports involved in injuries were:

  • Football (37.7% of total male sports injury attendances)

  • Rugby union (15.5%)

  • Rugby league (5.0%)

  • Trampoline (4.2%)

  • Basketball (3.2%)

For girls, the main sports for injuries were:

  • Trampoline (12.0% of total female sports injury attendances)

  • Netball (8.7%)

  • Horse-riding (8.0%)

  • Football (8.0%)

  • Ice-skating (6.8%)

Among males, the largest number of injuries for each sport occurred at age 15

years for football, 14 years for rugby union and rugby league, 9 years for trampoline, and 13 and 14 years for basketball.

For females, it was 8 years for trampoline, 14 years for netball, 13 years for horse-riding, 13, 14, and 17 years for football, and 12 years for ice-skating.

Almost a quarter of the injuries (22.6%) were fractures, with the highest percentage occurring in the upper limbs. Males were much more likely to attend for fractures (69.7%) than females (30.3%).

Rugby union was the sport most associated with head injury and concussion in boys. Among girls, head injuries were most common during horse-riding and concussion during hockey.

Hospital Admissions

The data recorded 324 sports, or recreational activity, related hospital admissions in patients aged up to 19 years.

Of the 91 (28.1%) which were injury-related, cycling was cited in 22 (24.2%) with a majority in males (81.8%).  Horse-riding accounted for 16 cases (17.6%), with a majority in females (87.5%). Other main sports that led to admissions were trampoline (7.7%), rugby (6.6%), and motocross (6.6%).

Allyson Pollock from the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, who co-authored the report, said that the take home message from the findings was that more needed to be done to prevent the high number of hospital attendances among children that could lead to lifelong consequences.

Prof Pollock, a specialist in childhood injuries, who has campaigned against the inclusion of rugby in the school curriculum, told Medscape News UK: "Injuries do happen to everybody in their lives but the question is, 'can they be prevented and are they avoidable?'. And we know that for many injuries in contact sports, they absolutely can be prevented, and they are avoidable. And that's why you find in collision sports they have very, very high rates of injury because the prevention strategies are not being put in place.

"Injuries occur, for example, in rugby not because you're playing lots of rugby but because of the contact elements of the game: the tackle, which is where most injuries occur, and the scrum."

She believed part of the problem revolved around adults imposing sport on children as a pre-requisite for them getting enough exercise. "Physical activity is very good for your health, and you shouldn't conflate physical activity with sport," she said. "And we know that some sports are much more prone to injury than others. Physical activity does not need to result in injury or harm."

Results on sports-related injuries in children from NHS emergency care dataset Oxfordshire pilot: an ecological study, Kirkwood et al, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Abstract .

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