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Youth Soccer Injuries, Concussions Have Skyrocketed Since 1990: Report

As youth soccer has steadily increased in popularity over the last 30 years, health experts note that the number soccer injuries and concussions have soared. 

In a study published in the September 2016 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio indicate that an increasing rate of injuries linked to youth soccer highlights a need for increased prevention efforts.

Soccer has grown to be a widely popular sport in the United States. In 1974, about 100,000 children across the country played soccer on sports teams. Now, more than 3 million children and teens are registered soccer players, an increase of more than 90% since 1990.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, focusing on soccer related injuries among children 7 through 17 years old from 1990 to 2014. The findings indicate that more than 3 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms from 1990 to 2014.

While that broke down to nearly 120,000 children annually, the data indicates that the number per year has been rising steadily, resulting in an 111% increase per year during the 24-year study period.

Patients between the ages of 12 and 17 made up the bulk of the children hurt playing soccer, accounting for 73% of the injuries. This age group was three times more likely to suffer a soccer-related injury than younger soccer players.

The study comes at a time when concussion and head injuries among children and teens appears to be skyrocketing.

A recent study indicated concussion brain injury rates among children and teens have nearly doubled over the last decade. Concussion rates for children 10 to 14 have nearly tripled during that same period. Head injuries have come to the forefront of media attention in recent years as more youth continue to suffer serious side effects, including depression, after sustaining a concussion.

Another study published in June indicated more than 1 million children will suffer a concussion each year and not receive necessary medical evaluation or treatment.

Concussions or other head injuries accounted for seven percent of youth soccer the injuries, the latest study found. Overall, the annual number of concussion or head related injuries increased by nearly 1,600% from 1990 to 2014, raising questions as to whether soccer participation was linked to the increased concussion rates among children.

However, the increased reports of youth concussions is likely also linked to the growing awareness of the serious side effects, as well as the many youth concussion laws that have been passed in recent years.

Guidelines issued by the American Academy of Neurology call for athletes who have sustained a blow to the head to leave the game immediately, erring on the side of caution concerning head injuries.

Soccer Injury Risks

In the new study, the most common way players were injured was by being struck by another player or the ball, this happened in 28% of injuries. Another common mode of injury included falling, which accounted for nearly 30% of injuries.

The most common injuries included suffering a sprain or strain, that happened in 34% of players, or fractures, which accounted for 23% of injuries. Twenty-two percent of injuries were soft tissue injuries.

One-quarter of injuries were to the upper limbs, 18% to the ankles, and 18% to the head or neck.

Just over half of the patients were male. Researchers also concluded most players were injured in a recreation place, such as a park, arena or sporting field. About 26% of injuries occurred at school.

“This study is the first to comprehensively investigate soccer-related injuries and calculate injury rates based on soccer participation data among children at the national level,” the researchers said in their conclusions. “The increasing number and rate of pediatric soccer-related injuries, especially soccer-related concussions/closed head injuries, underscore the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries.”

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