Objective. To determine the baseline injury rate for children ages 7 to 13 participating in community organized baseball, softball, soccer, and football.
Methods. In this observational cohort study, 1659 children were observed during 2 seasons of sports participation in an urban area. Data were collected by coaches using an injury survey tool designed for the study. A reportable injury was defined as one requiring on-field evaluation by coaching staff, or causing a player to stop participation for any period of time, or requiring first aid during an event. Logistic regression analyses were done within and across sports for injury rates, game versus practice injury frequencies, and gender differences where appropriate.
Results. The injury rates, calculated per 100 athlete exposures during total events (games plus practices), were: baseball, 1.7; softball, 1.0; soccer, 2.1; and football, 1.5. The injury rates for baseball and football were not significantly different. Across sports, contusions were the most frequent type of injury. Contact with equipment was the most frequent method of injury, except in football where contact with another player was the most frequent method. In baseball, 3% of all injuries reported were considered serious (fracture, dislocation, concussion); in soccer, 1% were considered serious; and in football, 14% were considered serious. The frequency of injury per team per season (FITS), an estimation of injury risk, was 3 for baseball and soccer, 2 for softball, and 14 for football for total events. For all sports, there were more game than practice injuries; this difference was significant except for softball. There were no significant gender differences in soccer for injury rates during total events.
Conclusions. Given the classification of football as a collision sport, the high number of exposures per player, the FITS score, and the percentage of injuries considered serious, youth football should be a priority for injury studies. Health professionals should establish uniform medical coverage policies for football even at this age level.
Recommendations for Modifications. Injury surveillance for youth sports is gaining momentum as an important step toward formulating injury prevention methods. However, establishing patterns of injuries, taking preventive measures, and evaluating equipment and coaching modifications may take years. In addition to the objective findings of this study, our direct observations of community sports through 2 seasons showed areas where immediate modifications could reduce injury risk. The first recommendation is that youth sports leagues provide and require first aid training for coaches. Training could be done by sports medicine professionals and include recognition and immediate response to head, neck, and spine injuries, as well as heat-related illnesses. The second recommendation is that youth sports leagues have clear, enforceable return to play guidelines for concussions, neck and back injuries, fractures, and dislocations. The third recommendation is that baseball and softball leagues consider the injury prevention potential of face guards on batting helmets.
- Received November 30, 2001.
- Accepted April 17, 2002.
- Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Pediatrics