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Concussion, Other Injuries From Youth Soccer Soar In US

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Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the United States, particularly among the youth. Statistics show that more than 3 million players aged 19 and below are registered in both professional and recreational soccer.

Now, a new study suggests that the rate of injuries from youth soccer has skyrocketed in the country in the last 25 years. In fact, more youngsters are sent to U.S. emergency rooms due to soccer-related injuries, researchers say.

Increasing Numbers

The new report discovered that the number of soccer-related injuries treated in emergency rooms has increased by 78 percent from 1990 to 2014, while the yearly rate went up by 111 percent among kids and teens aged 7 to 17 years old.

Researchers calculated the rate using participation data. Because of this method, the report revealed that the increasing number of injuries not only come from the number of young players, but also because players are being treated more frequently.

"The sport of soccer has changed dramatically in the last 25 years," says study senior author Huiyun Xiang.

Today, athletes often get to play throughout the year because of club, rec and travel leagues. What's more, the intensity of play is higher than ever, says Xiang. All these factors may contribute to higher risks of injury.

Xiang and colleagues believe the growing trend reflect not only the sport's popularity, but also the great awareness about injuries and their potential risks. Parents and coaches are more likely to seek out treatment for youngsters to address symptoms that in previous years may have been overlooked.

Types Of Soccer-Related Injuries

According to the research, about 35 percent of the injuries were strains or sprains; 23 percent were fractures; and 22 percent were soft tissue injuries.

Although concussions or closed-head injuries accounted for more than 7 percent (200,000 cases) of the overall injuries, the rate increased 1596 percent over the 25-year study period, researchers say.

What's more, athletes with closed-head injuries or concussions were twice as likely to be admitted to the emergency department as other patients.

Safety Education

Xiang believes the current rate underscores the importance of injury prevention and safety education in youth soccer. He says concussions can have significant effects in terms of brain development and cognitive function.

Tracy Meehan, a researcher from Nationwide Children's Hospital, says while they cannot pinpoint why the rate of concussion is increasing, it is crucial that families and athletes are aware of the issue and know what they can do to reduce the risks.

Researchers suggest that wearing the recommended protective gear, including shin guards and mouth guards, can help protect against injuries. Learning the proper technique during games could also contribute to safety.

The findings of the study are issued in the journal Pediatrics.

Photo: JC Winkler | Flickr

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