Player Safety

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High school and college sporting events have become major attractions, garnering acres of space in both print and electronic media. Unfortunately, injuries related to these sporting events hardly receive much attention in the media despite the fact that approximately 2.6 million young athletes (younger than 19 years) receive medical attention for injuries sustained during sports and recreational activities each year.

The infographic below, created by Ohio University’s Online Master’s in Athletic Administration program, takes a closer look at this growing issue highlighting interesting facts and recommendations for the prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries

Player Safety infographic

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Sports with a High Rate of Injuries

In the US, high school football has the highest number of sports-related injuries (44%). Girls’ soccer has the second-highest number of injuries at 16%. Boys’ soccer takes third place in terms of most injuries (10%) while boys wrestling occupies fourth place (six percent). The fifth sport with most injuries is girls’ basketball (six percent). In terms of highest injury rate, high school football tops with 3.74 athletes per 1,000 students followed by boys wrestling with 2.48 athletes per 1,000 students. In third place is girls’ soccer with an injury rate of 2.47 per 1,000 students while girls’ basketball occupies fourth place with 1.88 athletes per 1,000 sustaining injuries. The sad news is 62%of these injuries occur during practice.

Main Causes of Injuries in High School and College Athletes

To start with, budgetary constraints are forcing high schools and colleges to spend less on sporting facilities as well as relevant staff. In fact, 47 states spent less per student in 2013/ 2014 compared to 2008/2009. Secondly, many colleges and high schools have inadequate medical facilities. Currently, 48% of nurses in these learning institutions serve more than 750 students each, which is above the recommended ratio of 1 nurse to 750 students.

Consequences of Sports Injuries

Injured students can take legal action against their schools/colleges for failing to protect athletes. Another consequence is the end of a learning institution’s sporting season.

The Most Common Sports Injuries

Among high school and college athletes, 44% of sprains and strains occur during practice while 41% occur during competition. In second place are concussions where 16% occur during practice and 26% during competition. Twenty-six percent of other types of injuries occur during practice while 14% occur during competition. In fourth place are contusions where nine percent occur during practice and 10% occur during competition. Finally, 6% of fractures occur during practice and 9% occur during competition. It is worth noting these are all direct injuries.

The common causes of indirect injuries include overexertion, especially in athletes with sickle cell anemia, heatstroke, and cardiac arrest. For example, cardiac arrest is responsible for one fatality in every 22,903 athletes ages 17 to 24. In addition, heatstroke caused about 20 deaths between 2010 and 2014.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Given the high number of students (7.7 million) who participate in high school and college sports, preventing injuries is clearly important. To start with, learning institutions must come up with better acclimatization policies to prevent heat stroke incidences. An effective policy on this front is cold-water immersion. When done properly, cold-water immersion has a 100% survival rate.

Sports directors and coaches should use new technologies to screen athletes. A good example of such technology is the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) calculator widely used by the NCAA as well as the US army. It measures radiant temperature, humidity, and air temperature. Readings from this calculator can help a coach prevent heat stroke incidences. Another handy piece of technology is a helmet guardian cap, which can reduce or prevent concussions and contusions. Other injury prevention strategies include the use of hand cooling gloves and cardiovascular screening before athletes participate in competitions or practice games.

Well-planned practice routines can help. Up to 45% of injuries among high school athletes occur during practice. Out of these, 58% occur after about 2 hours of practice, which means coaches could be pushing young kids to overexert themselves. The good news is changing to practice routines can help reduce this high rate of injuries. An effective injury prevention approach during practice is an additional warm-up period. Moreover, some specific training approaches can reduce ALC injury risk by as much as 72%.

Learn more about earning your online Master’s in Athletic Administration from Ohio University.