BACKGROUND: Significant knowledge deficits exist regarding sports injuries in the young child. Children continue to engage in physically demanding, organized sports to a greater extent despite the lack of physical readiness, predisposing themselves to injury.
PURPOSE: To evaluate sports injuries sustained in very young children (5-12 years) versus their older counterparts (13-17 years) with regard to the type and location of injuries, severity, and diagnosis.
STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review was performed on a 5% random probability sample (final N = 2133) of 5- to 17-year-old patients treated for sports injuries in the Division of Sports Medicine at a large, academic pediatric medical center between 2000 and 2009. Using descriptive statistics, correlates of injuries by age group, injury type, and body area are shown.
RESULTS: Five- to 12-year-old patients differed in key ways from older patients. Children in this category sustained injuries that were more often traumatic in nature and more commonly of the upper extremity. Older patients (13-17 years) were more likely to be treated for injuries to the chest, hip/pelvis, and spine. A greater proportion of the older children were treated for overuse injuries, as compared with their younger counterparts (54.4% vs. 49.2%, respectively), and a much larger proportion of these injuries were classified as soft tissue injuries as opposed to bony injuries (37.9% vs. 26.1%, respectively). Injury diagnosis differed between the 2 age groups. The 13- to 17-year age group sustained more anterior cruciate ligament injuries, meniscal tears, and spondylolysis, while younger children were diagnosed with fractures, including physeal fractures, apophysitis, and osteochondritis dissecans. The 5- to 12-year-old patients treated for spine injuries were disproportionately female (75.8%); most of these injuries were overuse (78.8%) and bony (60.6%); over one third of the youngest children were diagnosed with spondylolysis. Surgery was required in 40% of the injuries in the full sample.
CONCLUSION: Sports injuries to children differ by age in injury diagnosis, type, and body area. Older children sustain a greater proportion of overuse injuries classified as soft tissue in nature. Children of all ages are sustaining significant sports injuries that require surgical intervention.
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