Soccer

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More ER Visits in Youth Soccer But Event Planning has Evolved Too

5 Oct, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

With the news that youth soccer-related injuries treated in emergency departments more than doubled between 1990 to 2013 comes a spate of reactions from everyone from analysts to doctors to regular joes on the blogosphere. Everyone has something to say – but the big question is how the news will affect event owners.

The report, published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, noted annual injury rates among players age seven through 17 had more than doubled among youth soccer players. In 1990, the figure was 106 injuries per 10,000 players; in 2013, it was up to 220 injuries.

An article in CNN pointed out that more than 70 percent of those injuries were in older children, ages 12 to 17. In addition, this age group was more than three times as likely to be injured than younger players

The retrospective analysis was conducted among children 7 through 17 years of age. Patients 12 to 17 years old accounted for 72.7% of injuries.

Soccer America Daily broke down the injuries:

34.6% -- sprain or strain.
23.2% -- fracture.
21.9% -- soft-tissue injury.
7.3% -- concussion/closed head injury.

Head injuries contributed significantly to the spike in emergency room visits. The annual rate of concussions/closed head injuries per 10,000 participants increased by 1,595.6 percent, from 1990 to 2014. The increase, however, could be attributed to the growing awareness of the dangers of head injuries, prompting more trips to the emergency room.

"The incidence of concussion/CHI [closed head injury] among youth soccer players may, in fact, be increasing," write the study's authors Nicholas A. Smith, Thiphalak Chounthirath and Huiyun Xiang. "In addition, there has been a growing awareness among players, coaches, athletic trainers, medical professionals and the public in general about the potentially serious consequences of sports-related concussion. Many states have passed youth sports concussion laws since 2009. This awareness may have led to better recognition of concussions and referrals to EDs [emergency departments] by soccer coaches and athletic trainers."

The sports business industry is responding to increased scrutiny of children’s sports injuries. In Kentucky, Elizabethtown Sports Park, for example, has forged a partnership  with a local hospital, allowing event owners to elect to have certified athletic trainers on the premises during events.

“We are so much more aware today than we were 20 years ago about taking care of injuries correctly," Scott Sailor, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, told CNN. "We've been able to see more athletic trainers and health professionals get around student athletes today. ... We have more people keeping an eye out for injury and making sure they get proper care."

Many states have tried and failed to require onsite medical personnel at sports events. In one of the more high-profile cases which became known as the ‘soccer mom lawsuit,’ a measure that would have required medical supervision of all youth soccer games, was thrown out by a judge. (The judge called the suit’s claims, that head injuries in youth soccer were at epidemic levels, ‘incomprehensible.’) An extreme proposal to require doctors on the sidelines of youth football games in New York, also went down in defeat.

More than 98% of the children who visited emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries were treated and released the same day.

During the years covered in the study, youth soccer and high school soccer participation doubled.

The study also reported that the increase in the number of soccer injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms is a trend that also was observed for other youth sports from 2001 to 2013.

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