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Basketball Injuries Land Many Kids in ER

Basketball-Related Strains, Sprains Most Common, But Traumatic Brain Injuries Up 70%

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 13, 2010 -- More than 375,000 boys and girls a year suffer basketball injuries that require visits to emergency rooms, a new study shows.

The most common injuries during the 1997-2007 study period were strains or sprains in the lower extremities (30.3%), according to researchers, but traumatic brain injuries have increased by 70%.

More than 4 million basketball-related injuries among children aged 5-19 years required emergency room visits during the 11-year period.

Boys were more likely than girls to sustain cuts, fractures, or dislocations, but girls were more likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries, as well as injuries to the knee. Study authors say the big jump in traumatic brain injuries is cause for concern, and more research is needed to understand why it is happening.

Researchers examined data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Their study, which has been published online, will appear in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Among findings:

  • 23.8% of all injuries involved the ankle.
  • Youths aged 15-19 years were more likely to suffer injuries to the lower extremities.
  • Kids aged 5-10 years were more likely to sustain injuries to the upper extremities, traumatic brain injuries, fractures, or dislocations.

Basketball is the most common team sport for both girls and boys in the United States, and though sports activity has health benefits, most sports have inherent injury risks that need further investigation, the researchers say. They also report:

  • The mean age of injured patients was 14.3 years.
  • Boys accounted for 74.2% of injuries.
  • 50.7% of injuries were to adolescents aged 15-19 years. This group also had the highest injury rate, 9.3 per 1,000 players.
  • Children of middle-school age, 11-14 years old, had an injury rate of 9 per 1,000. And the rate for kids aged 5-10 years was 1.5 per 1,000 players.
  • Injury rates were highest among 13-year-old girls and 15-year-old boys.

Basketball-related injuries treated in emergency rooms decreased 21.8% from 404,313 in 1997 to 316,081 in 2007. What's more, the injury rate for youths playing basketball decreased 24.8%, from 6.8 injuries per 1,000 children in 1997 to 5.1 per 1,000 in 2007.

The injuries occurred all year long, but 44.4% occurred between December and March.

The highest incidence for injuries was in January, during which 12.6% occurred.

The study also found:

  • Patients required hospitalization in 33,753 cases, or 0.8%, and boys were more likely than girls to be admitted.
  • Kids aged 5-10 years were more likely than youths aged 11-19 years to be hospitalized.
  • Fractures and dislocations accounted for 57% of all hospital admissions, and traumatic brain injuries accounted for 14.1%.
  • 8.4% of the injuries involved finger injuries.
  • 36.1% of injuries occurred at a sports or recreational facility. Lower extremity injuries accounted for 42% of the total, followed by 37.2% to upper extremities, and 16.4% to the head.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) accounted for 2.6% of the total. TBIs were more likely to be suffered by youths aged 5-10 years than children aged 11-19 years and also were more likely to occur between December and February than the rest of the year.

Researchers expressed alarm at the increasing number of traumatic brain injuries, which increased 70%, from 7,030 in 1997 to 11,948 in 2007.

Awareness of TBIs may explain some of the increases in this injury, but other contributing factors may include increasing levels of competitiveness, intensity of training, and play beginning at younger ages.

Over the entire study period, the proportion of traumatic brain injuries doubled for boys and tripled for girls, which may be attributable to an increase in the size of players and in the strength of girls.

“To address the problem of TBIs and to manage them effectively, education of coaches and athletes is vital,” the authors write. They say age-appropriate basketballs should be used and rough play discouraged.

SOURCES: Randazzo, C. Pediatrics, October 2010; Sept. 12, 2010; vol 128: online edition.News release, Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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