Participation in sports is widely used as a key component in promoting a healthy lifestyle for adolescents and is praised for their benefits to physical and mental health. A recent study by Oxford University Hospitals, conducted by researchers from Newcastle University and the NHS Foundation Trust, UK, shows that greater care is needed to help children cope with physical risks.
The researchers, led by Graham Kirkwood of Newcastle University, collected data from the 24-hour emergency services of two National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in Oxfordshire over a 27-month period from January 2012 to March 2014.
During this period, 63,877 injury-related attendances were recorded for patients of all ages, 18.3% of whom were classified as sports-related in the medical records. For patients in the age group 0-19 years, this percentage increased to 26.5%.
The attendance data for the younger age group were then further determined by age, gender, sport, location and mechanism of the injury as well as the final diagnosis. The results show that 10 to 14 year olds are most likely to be hospitalized. More than 40% of all emergency rooms for this age group are classified as sports injuries.
The researchers also came to certain sports-specific conclusions. The least surprising finding is that football – the most popular participant sport among British boys, especially in the most vulnerable age group – was the sport most associated with male patient injuries, accounting for more than one-third of the emergency department.
The two league and Union rugby codes together accounted for 20.5% of admissions, followed by trampoline and basketball at 4.2% and 3.2%, respectively.
For women, the distribution was more even across disciplines, with the main cause of hospitalization being 12%, followed by netball, riding, football and ice skating, which each accounted for around 8% of recorded injuries.
The researchers found that the sports most likely to cause head injuries and concussions are boys rugby league and girls' horse racing. The high incidence of concussion in young athletes is becoming increasingly worrying. A 2017 study suggests that the participation of American football in high school is related to the reporting of head wounds in the media.
Scientists believe that schools and local communities should focus more on injury prevention during their first four years of schooling. The study also suggests introducing improved safety measures for trampolines in the home.
"Emergency department staff do an excellent job of collecting injury data on our patients, and using this information can help prevent injury," says co-author Tom Hughes of John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
"This analysis shows areas where we should explore how we can make everyday activities a little safer without being boring."
Kirkwood highlights the heavy burden of sports injuries affecting the besieged public health system in the UK and injured children and their families.
However, as obesity is a persistent topic in the UK, it is committed to the safety of abstinence. "Children need to be physically active, but making organized sports as safe as possible must be part of an effective strategy to combat childhood obesity," he says.
The study is published in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine,