I used to love watching my son play high school football. It was exciting to see all his hard work and dedication come together out on the field, but as I sat on those cold bleachers, my heart stopped every time he got hit. I remember the fear and deep anxiety that the parents, coaches, referees and all spectators felt when a player failed to get up after a play.
As a pediatric nurse, I have witnessed the damage and pain an athlete endures after a sports injury. In this article, you’ll learn more about youth sports injury statistics and the actions coaches and athletic directors can take to make sure they’re prepared for the inevitable.
Youth Sports Injury Statistics
Youth sports injuries happen fast and more often than you think. In the U.S., about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports and more than 3.5 million experience an injury each year, causing some loss of time of participation or worse. Almost one-third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports-related injuries. By far, the most common injuries are sprains and strains. Although common, they are very painful and scary for children and their parents.
Some sports are more dangerous than others. For example, contact sports, such as football, can be expected to result in a higher number of injuries than a non-contact sport, such as swimming. However, all types of sports have a potential for injury, whether from the trauma of contact with other players or from overuse or misuse of a body part.
Based on the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 775,000 children, ages 14 and younger, are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year. Most of the injuries occurred as a result of falls, being struck by an object, collisions, and overexertion during unorganized or informal sports activities.
Types of sports and recreational activities
Consider these estimated injury statistics for 2009 from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Basketball. More than 170,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries.
- Baseball and softball. Nearly 110,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries. Baseball also has the highest fatality rate among sports for children ages 5 to 14, with three to four children dying from baseball injuries each year.
- Bicycling. More than 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries.
- Football. Almost 215,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries.
- Ice hockey. More than 20,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ice hockey-related injuries.
- In-line and roller skating. More than 47,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries.
- Skateboarding. More than 66,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries.
- Sledding or toboggan. More than 16,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries.
- Snow skiing or snowboarding. More than 25,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snowboarding and snow skiing-related injuries.
- Soccer. About 88,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.
- Trampolines. About 65,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries.
Be Prepared with an Action Plan
Playing sports comes with inherent risks, but parents and students expect that coaches, schools, and league managers have everything under control. Having an action plan in place shows your commitment to student-athlete health and safety. A basic sports injury action plan includes:
- Policies and Procedures
- Access to Athletes Emergency Information
- Chain of Command
- When to Call 911
- AED Locations
- Campus Map with EMS Routes
- Important Phone Numbers
- First Responders: Trained medical professionals prepared to respond to first aid and medical emergencies at each event.
A functioning first aid response team requires specific skills, so many athletic directors and league managers turn to outsourced partners to provide the service. That way, they can be assured that safety is a top priority and handled by trained medical professionals so they can stay focused on the game.