Today marked the launch of the STOP Sports Injuries campaign, a collaboration of multiple medical organizations (as well as some businesses, and, for star power, some professional athletes). The goal of the campaign is to curb the rapid rise in the number of overuse sports injuries in children.
Some time ago, kids’ sports–like fresh fruits and vegetables–varied with the seasons. For the same kid, fall was for football, winter was for basketball, spring was for baseball, and summer was for swimming. But now the pressure is on for children (and their parents) to choose a sport early and then train to excel. Today, many kids can, and do, compete in their sport of choice year-round. And when they aren’t competing, many are still training for that sport via sports camps or other local programs.
According to a statement from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that high school athletes account for approximately 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year.
But what I find scarier is this statistic: Data from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons show that more than 3.5 million children aged 14 years and younger are treated for sports injuries each year, with an increase over the past several years in the number of injuries overall, and a decrease in the age when they occur.
Physical activity in childhood is important for good health, and I think kids should be encouraged in all sports activities. But you can have too much of a good thing, especially when kids are still growing, unless preventive medicine plays a role. A large part of the STOP Sports Injuries campaign is about training smart to prevent injuries. Sports injury prevention isn’t sexy—it includes underappreciated tips like warming up properly, building up intensity gradually, and wearing the right shoes—but these things can make a difference.
The STOP Sports Injuries program has information aimed at young athletes, coaches, and parents, including downloadable sport-specific injury-prevention tip sheets.
The medical organizations that have signed on to the campaign include: the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the National Athletic Trainers Association, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Here’s what I don’t know: Whether this effort represents another type of preventive measure—an attempt to counteract the possibility of more newly insured young athletes seeking professional care in the wake of health care reform.
And here’s what I do know: When the overarching goal is keeping kids healthy and active, that’s the goal to aim for.
—Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)