Do young children athletes playing sports in recreational leagues get injured or have concussions? Many people may think that young children playing sports have few injuries, but researchers at the University of South Florida wanted to accurately determine the number of sports injuries that occur in this population .
While many sports injury studies have focused on high school or collegiate athletes, little to no information is found on younger American children, especially those children playing in non-school recreational leagues. The literature has shown that a substantial number of children are treated each year for injuries due to sports and this is an important population for a research focus .
The purpose of our study was two-fold. Firstly, the research team wanted to determine the injury and concussion rates of children, age 5-11, who play sports in recreational leagues, in a large Florida County. The next question was to assess if the test version of the ImPACT Pediatric concussion tool could be used to study baseline and follow-up concussions in this population. This iPad-administered tool assesses various sequencing, memory, and reaction time skills. The methods for this study involved hiring Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs) to use the data instrument, High School Reporting Information Online (RIO) for injuries and concussions, and the iPad-administered pediatric concussion tool developed by ImPACT Applications, Inc for baseline/follow-up neurocognitive data. Follow-up data included those ImPACT Pediatric results after the athlete was allowed to return to play. The follow-up testing was requested by the clinician or parent/s.
In our two-year project, we collected data on over 1,500 children per year, ages 5-11, who played recreational football, soccer, baseball, and softball at a large athletic facility. The University of South Florida’s Institutional Review Board approved the study .
Our results showed that football had the highest injury rate in practices and competitions in Year 1 of the study. Eighteen total injuries across sports occurred in practices and competitions. We conducted 663 ImPACT Pediatric baseline tests and five follow-ups. Most injuries occurred in males and in competitions. Also, most injuries were concussions and fractures . Boys’ soccer had most of the concussions, girls’ soccer had the majority of contusions, and baseball had half of the fractures .
For Year 2 of the study, 219 ImPACT baseline tests were conducted with eight follow-ups. Eight injuries occurred across sports-all of which all were concussions. Most of the concussions took place in boys’ soccer, followed by girls’ soccer.
This study has important findings that show young children playing sports in recreational leagues do indeed get injured and have concussions. The results will allow future studies to expand the methodology focusing on a greater number of athletes and additional sports so that targeted guidelines and interventions for coaches, players, and parents can be developed. With this research and related interventions, it is hoped that sports-related injuries in this young population decline.
These findings are described in the article entitled Injuries and concussions among young children, ages 5-11, playing sports in recreational leagues in Florida, recently published in the journal PLOS One.
- Liller KD, Morris B, Yang Y, Bubu OM, Perich B, Fillion J (2019) Injuries and concussions
among young children, ages 5-11, playing sports in recreational leagues in Florida. PLoS ONE 14(5):e0216217. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0216217