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Research Review

More Than 1 Million Children Seen for Sports-Related Emergencies

Every 25 seconds, or 1.35 million times a year, a young athlete suffers a sports injury severe enough to go to the emergency department (ED), according to a new research report released by Safe Kids Worldwide. Sports safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, lead organization for Safe Kids Cumberland Valley, offer strategies to help prevent sports injuries.

According to the report that studied the 14 most popular sports, concussions account for 163,000 (12%) of those ED visits. There is a concussion-related ED visit every three minutes. Surprisingly, it is not just high school athletes suffering concussions; athletes aged 12 to 15 make up 47% of the sports-related concussions seen in the ED, a statistic made even more disturbing by the knowledge that younger children with concussions take a longer time to recover than older children.

“With the absence of our ability to prevent most concussions from actually occurring, our next and present best line of defense is the prompt recognition and response to concussions in order to minimize severity and prolonged impairment,” says Alex Diamond, DO, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation and Pediatrics. “This is where we really see the value of education as we rely heavily on those in the community trenches such as parents and coaches to have a high index of suspicion and sit their athlete out if there is any concern for a concussion.”

Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Cumberland Valley are calling on community members, coaches, parents, sports leagues, and athletes to implement four overarching strategies that are making a difference:

• Get educated, then pass it forward. Attend a Safe Kids sports clinic or go to http://www.childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org/sportssafety to find out how to keep children safe.

• Teach athletes injury prevention skills. Instill smart hydration habits, warm-up exercises, and stretches to prevent common injuries. Understand stress placed on muscles particular to the sport (e.g., pitching arm, knees) and target exercises to those areas. Encourage young athletes to get plenty of rest.

• Encourage athletes to speak up about injuries. Athletes can feel like they are letting down their teammates, coaches or parents if they ask to sit out due to an injury. Encourage athletes to speak up about their injuries to help prevent further injury.

• Support coaches in injury prevention decisions. A Safe Kids Worldwide 2012 survey found one-half of coaches admit to being pressured by a parent or athlete to keep an injured athlete in the game. Coaches need to be educated and supported in making decisions that protect the immediate and long-term health of young athletes.

“We all play a role in the well-being of our young athletes,” Diamond says. “Therefore, we feel it is vital to empower every individual in the community to help bring about a safer sporting environment and culture for their young athletes, but also for us to provide them with the tools they need to be able to make that difference.”

— Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center