Soccer, one of the most prevalent sports in the world, has continued to grow in popularity in the United States. As the number of children participating in organized and unorganized soccer leagues increases, so does the number of children at risk for injury. A study conducted by researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Columbus Children's Hospital is the first comprehensive look at the total number of pediatric soccer-related injuries seen in emergency rooms across the country.
According to the study, published in the February issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, from 1990 through 2003 there were an estimated 1.6 million soccer-related injuries that resulted in treatment in U.S. emergency departments, ranging from 96,200 to 136,600 injuries annually. The overall pediatric soccer-related injury rate hit a peak in 2000 with approximately two injuries per 1,000 children in the country.
"To reduce the soccer-related injury rate to the lowest possible level, the prevalence and causes of such injuries must be understood," said co-author Dawn Comstock, PhD, CIRP principal investigator and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "The establishment of a national database of soccer participation and injury data is needed to better identify injury risks."
Boys accounted for more than half (59%) of the injuries, though during the 14-year period, there was an increase in the rate of injury among girls. Children 2 to 4-years-old sustained a higher proportion of face, head and neck injuries than did older children.
Boys were more likely to have face, head and neck injuries and lacerations or punctures. Girls were more likely to have ankle and knee injuries and sprains or strains. The wrist, finger, hand, ankle and knee were the most commonly injured body parts, while the most common diagnoses were sprains, strains, contusions, abrasions and fractures.
"Based on the results of this study, we support several recommendations for pediatric soccer safety," explained co-author Christy Knox, MA, CIRP research associate. "Children 2-years-old to 4-years-old should be closely supervised while playing soccer because of their risk of head injuries and rate of hospitalization. More detailed research needs to be conducted on soccer helmets to see if the risk for concussion and other head injuries can be decreased. Age limitations should be considered for participation in competitive soccer. Parents, players, coaches, referees, soccer organizations, and the medical community should work together to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants."
Data for the study was collected from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). The analysis included all patients 2-years-old to 18-years-old in the NEISS database, who were seen in a U.S. hospital emergency department for a soccer-related injury during the 14-year period.