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Study Focuses on Sports Injuries in Young Athletes

Photo Courtesy of the National Alliance for Youth Sports

The report, “Game Changers,” made possible with support from Johnson & Johnson, takes an indepth look at data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

The report studied the 14 most popular sports and found that concussions account for 163,000 ER visits or 12 percent.

It also revealed that knee injuries account for one in ten sports-related injuries.  And young female athletes are eight times more likely than males to tear their anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.

Dr. Brian Mahaffey, director of Mercy Sports Medicine, says Mercy treats a variety of sports-related injuries each year.

"We see all kinds of sprains and strains and typical orthopedic-type injuries related to sports.  One of the more common ones that we tend to see, especially in the fall season, is concussions.  We see quite a few of those," he said.

The study found that in 2011 the sport with the most injuries is football, which also has the highest concussion rate.  Wrestling and cheerleading have the second and third highest concussion rates.

Dr. Mahaffey says many sports injuries can be prevented or minimized through education.

He says Mercy and Cox both have athletic trainers in area high schools educating coaches and athletes about preventing and caring for injuries promptly.

Some prevention methods include well-fitting helmets, proper tackling techniques and warm-up exercises and stretches.

According to Dr. Mahaffey, if a concussion occurs, an athlete shouldn’t rush back to playing.  He says rest and time are needed for healing.

"There's not a medication that's gonna make it go away.  You don't want to take medications to disguise the symptoms in play.  Taking medication to help with your symptoms is appropriate, but they have to be--in our high schools and how we do it with our clinic is they have to be  cleared through tests, they have to be off all medications and it has to be signed off on by the physician and at our high schools it also has to be signed off by the athlete trainer at that high school as well," he said.

According to the study by Safe Kids Worldwide, it’s not just high school athletes who are suffering concussions.  Athletes 12 to 15-years-old make up almost half of the sports-related concussions seen in the ER.  And, because their brains are still developing, they take longer to heal.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.