Every 25 seconds, a young athlete experiences a sports injury so severe, it sends him to the emergency room.
New research released earlier this month by Safe Kids Worldwide studied injuries in the 14 most popular sports. Concussions accounted for 163,000 emergency room visits, or a concussion-related ER visit every three minutes.
The report shows it isn't just high school athletes suffering concussions. Those ages 12 to 15 make up nearly half of those sports-related concussions. In addition, the study reports, younger children with concussions take longer to recover than older children.
In 2011, the sport with the most injuries was football, which also has the highest concussion rate. Wrestling and cheerleading had the second- and third-highest concussion rates. Ice hockey also has an extremely high number of concussions.
"The more common injuries that we see in school-age children vary between sports," said Dr. Michael M. Hess, an orthopedic surgeon in Bountiful. "Football has some of the more significant injuries. ... Concussions have become a significant problem. Repetitive concussions are also a major concern."
Symptoms of concussion can include a brief loss of consciousness, headache, nausea, vomiting and confusion, Hess said. The patient may also feel like they are in a fog or dizzy and experience neck pain, irritability and confusion.
Hess said any athlete with a suspected concussion should be evaluated by trained health care providers. If the patient is unconscious, he or she should be treated as if a neck or head injury has been sustained. The player should never go back to playing until he has been evaluated and cleared by a physician.
"Stingers are often seen in collision sports, where a nerve in the neck or shoulder gets stretched or pinched, causing pain as well as numbness down the arm," Hess said. "This can become a chronic problem if the athlete has recurring injuries."
Additional common injuries from sports can include tearing of ligaments around the ankle, fractured clavicle (collarbone), separation of the joint at the end of the clavicle, shoulder injuries and dislocations.
Dr. Brett Richards, an orthopedic surgeon at Ogden Clinic, said he also sees knee injuries, such as meniscal or anterior cruciate ligament tears, ankle sprains, broken bones and a number of finger and hand injuries.
"It's important to remember that kids can be injured during a variety of sports. This time of year, parents tend to think about contact sports, such as football or lacrosse, but boys and girls involved in all types of activities, such as track, baseball, dance and cheerleading, can be injured just as easily. Preparation is key before you enter your kids into fall sports activities," he said.
Both physicians said it's important to make sure athletes have proper athletic equipment, plenty of water and other hydrating fluids, appropriate conditioning of the body and a good physical before they begin participating in sports. Also, teach them to stretch, warm up, cool down and recognize the signs of injury.
Some typical injuries seen on high school fields * Concussion -- A concussion can be mild to severe. A child may experience a complete loss of consciousness on the field. He or she may also experience headaches, nausea, and become emotional and forgetful about what happened just prior to the play or incident. * Sprain -- With a sprain the child will experience pain, tenderness or swelling. With most sprains, the child will still be able to bear weight (although it may be painful). * Broken bones -- Broken bones can be obvious (i.e., bone sticking out of the skin), or the child may experience the same symptoms as a sprain, but it is extremely painful or impossible to bear weight on the affected area. * Pulled muscle -- Most patients will experience tenderness at the site of the muscle and will have a difficult time stretching. For sprains and pulled muscles, use the RICE method - rest, ice, compression and elevation. If you suspect a broken neck or broken limb, do not move the child. Call 911. The child needs to remain very still until paramedics arrive. If the child is injured while wearing a helmet, do not remove it. If the child has suffered a concussion, resumption of a contact sport is a minimum of three weeks away. Source: Dr. Brett Richards