Watch CBS News

Study: Kids hurt during sports once every 25 seconds

Many childhoods would not be complete without youth sports. But, a new study from Safe Kids Worldwide reminds parents that kids can get hurt in the field of play -- about once every 25 seconds.

About 1.35 million emergency room visits due to severe sports injuries occur each year, according to Safe Kids, making up 20 percent of all injury-related ER visits for children and adolescents.

"We uncovered some surprising and disturbing data about how often our kids are being injured playing sports," Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a statement.

For the new report, researchers from the child injury awareness organization looked at emergency room data collected in 2011 on injuries related to the top 14 sports for kids, including basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, cheerleading and ice hockey.

The most common injuries were strains and sprains, followed by fractures, bruises and scrapes.

Especially concerning though were the researchers found about 163,000 of those ER visits -- or 12 percent -- were for concussions. That's about one child concussed every three minutes, Safe Kids points out. Nearly half of the concussions (47 percent) occurred in children between 12 and 15 years old, a "disturbing" trend because younger children take longer to recover from concussions than older ones. Serious and potentially deadly brain swelling is also more common in young people with traumatic brain injuries than adults, the report added.

Recent guidelines released by the American Academy of Neurology affirm youth athletes tend to take longer to recover from concussions than college athletes. A more conservative approach is now recommended when dealing with a kid who suffered a head injury. Those guidelines urge: "If in doubt, sit it out."

Football had the highest concussion rate -- and the most overall sports-related injuries -- followed by wrestling and cheerleading.

Ice hockey had the highest percentage of concussions among its injuries (31 percent).

Concussions weren't the only serious sports injuries reported in kids. About one in 10 ER visits were due to knee injuries, specifically tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that may require an emergency operation.

Young female athletes were about eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts for unknown biological reasons. Tearing an ACL in childhood puts a child at 10 times more risk for generative knee problems in adulthood, Safe Kids points out.

Previous research has suggested up to a 400 percent spike in knee injuries in young people over the past decade.

Dr. James Andrews -- an American orthopedic surgeon renowned for his work as a sports surgeon on high-profile athletes -- also weighed in on the report. He brought attention to parents and coaches that he frequently sees overuse in young athletes who have injuries, especially in baseball players who throw too hard or too much without rest.

Despite treating many major athletes, most of his patients are in fact kids.

"I have seen my patient population and surgical cases get increasingly younger," Andrews said in the report. "Children, parents and coaches need to realize that kids need to take a break from playing one sport year round. Sports should be fun for children."

The new report, called "Game Changers," was funded by Johnson & Johnson.

"This report should serve as a wake-up call and continual reminder for all parents, coaches and medical personnel about the risk of sports-related concussions -- especially in younger athletes before they enter high school," Dr. Robert Glatter, director of sports medicine and traumatic brain injury in the department of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said to in an email.

Safe Kids urges coaches, parents and young athletes to get more educated about sports injuries and how to stay safe. Athletes should be taught injury prevention skills including smart hydration habits, warm-ups and stretches. They should also get plenty of rest, and in the event they do get hurt -- speak up.

"Too often, athletes feel like they are letting down their teammates, coaches or parents if they ask to sit out," according to Safe Kids. "The truth is it takes more courage to speak up about an injury that can have serious and long-term effects."

Glatter agreed the time is now for a change in sports culture to one of injury prevention and disclosure.

He said, "The most effective protection for our children is having a solid team of parents, coaches and medical professionals united to keep our children safe and educated to ensure their longevity in the sports they enjoy."

Safe Kids Worldwide has more information on sports safety tips.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.