Sports injuries highest for children, young people

WASHINGTON - Sports injuries sent nearly 2 million people to U.S. emergency rooms in 2012 and the cost can be particularly devastating for young people without insurance, the administration said Tuesday.

With a shortage of young people signing up for Obamacare, the Department of Health and Human Services is using March Madness to urge basketball and other sports fans to enroll in a health care plan by the March 31 deadline.

In order to stress the importance of health coverage, HHS and the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition released new data looking at the cost of treating common sports injuries.

The most common sports injuries were ankle or knee sprains and leg fractures, according to the new data. The estimated rates of sports-related injuries were higher among children and young adults under the age of 25.

An estimated 12 million people between the ages of 5 and 22 years suffer a sports-related injury annually, the data found. About 20 percent of all injury-related ER visits involve children and teens aged 6 to 19.

It can be costly to treat even a minor sports injury, HHS said. For instance, a sprained ankle can cost a person $2,20, while charges for a broken arm average nearly $7,700.

"That broken arm would take almost 10 years to pay off at that rate without considering interest or harm to your credit," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote on her blog.

"Whether you're out on the slopes or playing the boss in a pickup game of basketball after that stressful meeting, you don't want to have to hold back because you aren't covered in case of injury," she said.

Miami Heat forward and former Duke University star Shane Battier told reporters during a press conference Tuesday that he's personally had over 90 stitches, 25 ankle sprains, over 50 X-rays and MRIs and now has early-onset arthritis from his athletic career.

"There is a health risk that comes from playing sports...chances are you're going to get banged up at some point," he said. "Play hard, be smart and get covered."

People can sign up for health insurance 24 hours a day, seven days a week online at HealthCare.gov, which Sebelius said is now working smoothly, or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

To get in-person help in your own community, visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and punch in your zip code.

People who miss the March 31 deadline will have to wait until November 2014 before they can enroll again.


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