As the Olympics are approaching, one area of events that is highly anticipated and will be sure to generate a large audience is the track and field games. Many children will be watching the Olympics, and may be influenced to try a new sport such as track. However, as with any sport, parents should keep in mind that there is a risk for injury.
A new study performed by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital discovered that from 1991 through 2008 more than 159,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 years had visited an emergency room for a track-related injury. Additionally, the annual number of track-related injuries increased 36% during this span. The results from this study show that a better job must be done at implementing injury-prevention protocols in the children participating in track-related events.1
The study revealed that the most common injuries were sprains and/or strains, fractures, and dislocations. The study included sprinting, cross country, running, hurdles, relays, stretching and/or drills, and other activities. The activities that resulted in the most injuries were running (59%) and hurdles (23%). The ankle (21%), knee (16.6%), and pelvis (11%) were the most commonly injured body parts. Also worth noting, is that girls were found more likely to sustain an injury to the lower extremities than to other body regions, and boys were twice more likely to withstand pelvic injuries than injuries to other areas of the body. However, boys were more likely than girls to endure a laceration, fracture, or dislocation. Girls were more likely to sustain sprains or strains.2
“Participation in track is a great way to encourage children and adolescents to remain physically active,” said Lara McKenzie, PhD, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy and senior author of the study. “However, the increase in injuries corresponding with the increased participation in this activity suggests we need to do a better job of preventing track-related injuries among our young athletes.”3
“We found that the most commonly injured body parts varied across activity and across age group. For instance, elementary students were more likely to sustain upper extremity injuries while high school students were more likely to sustain lower leg injuries,” said Dr. McKenzie, also a professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “With this in mind, track-related injury prevention efforts may need to be tailored by activity for different age groups in order to most effectively address the injury concerns the athletes are facing.”4
In conclusion, this study demonstrates the need for injury-prevention protocols for each specific area of track-related sports. What may be a successful safety measure for one area may very well be detrimental to another. While track and field is an excellent sport to involve children in, it should be done safely and with an education in injury prevention.
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