Varsity Preps

Athletic Injuries

There seems to be a full frontal assault at all levels of football over injuries. The main attack is over concussions. You can’t go through a day without someone complaining about concussions and football. Even NFL players are joining in and have filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL over concussions.
As you will see below, concussions are just a small portion of the risks of playing sports, not just football.
At the collegiate level, the NCAA keeps statistics on all sports, but I am going to cover sports injuries in NCAA football. Concussions make up only 7.4% of football injuries and head, face and neck injuries make up another 4.3%. The vast majority of football injuries involve the lower limbs (the elbow and below and the knee and below) and comprises 50.4% of all football injuries. You can read the NCAA study on football injuries here.
At the high school level and younger, here are some facts:
• 45,000,000 (60%) U.S. Children played one School or Non-School Amateur Sport 2010 and 8,000 are admitted to emergency rooms on a daily basis, according to a 2009 study by The Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. You can read the entire study here. I’ve listed some highlights from the study below:
• Among children, those aged 15–17 experience the highest emergency room visits for sports injuries
• High school athletes suffer 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.
• There are three times as many catastrophic football injuries among high school athletes as college athletes.
• More than 248,000 children visited hospital emergency departments in 2009 for concussions and other traumatic brain injuries related to sports and recreation.
• 31 high school players died of heat stroke complications between 1995 and 2009.
• 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practices
• 47 percent of schools nationally fall short of the federally recommended nurse-to-student ratio. Many schools have no nurse at all
Concussions:
• Female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than males (29,000 annually).
• Female high school basketball players suffer 240 percent more concussions than males (13,000).
• 15.8 percent of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day
• High school athletes who have been concussed are three times more likely to suffer another concussion in the same season.
• Concussion rates more than doubled among students age 8–19 participating in sports like basketball, soccer and football between 1997 and 2007, even as participation in those sports declined
Heat Related Illness:
• 64.7% of football players sustaining a heat illness were either overweight or obese.
• 2/3 of kids show up for practice at least significantly dehydrated.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest:
• Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in exercising young athletes.
• The incidence of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest in high school athletes ranges from .28 to 1 death per 100,000 high school athletes annually in the U.S.
Exertional Sickling:
• Sickle cell trait was the primary cause of death for 15 out of the 2,387 athlete deaths recorded in the 30-Year U.S. National Registry of Sudden Death in Athletes.
• Young athletes with sickle cell trait may be at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses and their complications.
• Predisposing factors to exertional sickling include heat, dehydration, altitude, asthma, high intensity exercise with few rest intervals
There are conclusions that can be made. Below are just a few.
Sports at the collegiate level are safer than at the high school level for numerous reasons. Each school in the NCAA has a medical and training staff that most high schools cannot afford. Also, the coaching staffs are at a higher level of competence when it comes to player safety.
High schools which are not required to have EMTs in attendance at games are more likely to have problems with injuries, both on the medical side and the legal side. Some states have passed legislation requiring EMTs on site during games.
Any endeavor has risks. You can get hit by a car walking across the street. As you sleep in your bed, some drunken fool might drive into your home in the middle of the night and kill you. Playing sports is no different. There are risks, and it is important for athletes and parents to understand those risks. So while there are risks, the rewards often are well worth taking those risks.

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