More than 26,000 American children end up in hospital emergency rooms due to gymnastic-related injuries each year, according to a new study in a recent issue of the journal Pediatrics. What’s more, although half a millions U.S. kids compete in gymnastics each year, competitive pressure has generally been increasing, meaning that children are competing at younger ages.
Researchers conducting this latest study determined that gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates of all girls’ sports, and the injury rates are similar to that of other high-injury sports, such as soccer, basketball and cheerleading.
Scientists analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to obtain information on gymnastics injuries for children between the ages of 6 and 17, limiting their search to a 16-year period running from 1990 to 2005. During that period, 425,000 children and teens had to be treated in emergency rooms for gymnastics-related injuries — almost 5 of every 1,000 gymnasts sustained an injury serious enough to require acute care, the study noted.
Most (82%) of the gymnasts were female, and approximately half were between 6 and 11 years old, according to the study. The overwhelming majority of children (97.4%) were treated in an emergency room and released. Only 1.7% of those injured children had to be admitted to the hospital.
Among older children, those between 12 and 17 were most likely to be injured, experiencing 7.4 injuries per 1,000 children. Children between the ages of 6 and 11suffered only 3.6 injuries per 1,000 gymnasts. Further, those injuries occurred at school roughly 40% of the time, while 6% occurred at another public property. Another 40% occurred at a place geared toward recreation or sports, and slightly less than 15% of the injuries happened at home.
The upper extremities were most likely to be injured (42.3%), followed by the lower extremities (33.8%). The head and neck were injured in 13% of the cases. Strain or sprain was the most common diagnosis (44.5%), followed by fracture or dislocation (30%). Concussions occurred in less than 2% of those children injured, according to the study.
Because the researchers only included emergency room visits, researchers believe that the number of gymnastics injuries reported in the study is likely underestimated.
Authors of the study advise that children shouldn’t limit themselves to one sport year-round, but instead, employ cross-training. Parents should also make sure that their child’s coaches have experience in training children, and employ proper conditioning and proper equipment.
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