Participation in high school sports has jumped more than 16% over the past decade, and while interscholastic sports play a key role in the successful development of students, they can also lead to injury. A new study published this month in the Journal of Athletic Training, the scientific publication of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, reports that athletic competitions resulted in higher injury rates than practices. More than seven million students participated in high school sports during the 2005-2006 academic year, according to the study. The report notes that continued surveillance is needed to monitor changes in practice and competition injury rates over time and to assess the effects of injury prevention efforts, such as rule and equipment changes designed to reduce injuries among young athletes. The study's publication coincides with National Athletic Training Month in March, which promotes the theme of "Who's Taking Care of Your Kids?"
 
"Athletic trainers, coaches, researchers and others work together to keep high school athletes safe and healthy during practices and competitions," said Dawn Comstock, PhD, from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "This report's deep insight into injury surveillance is a crucial step in developing the targeted, evidence-based interventions required to effectively reduce injury rates among the millions of high school student-athletes in the US."
 
The independent study was conducted by Nationwide Children's Hospital and Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and appears in the March 2008 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training. Its objective was to compare the types and numbers of injuries among high school athletes participating in five boys' sports (football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball) and four girls' sports (soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball).
 
High school athletes participating in these nine sports sustained an estimated 1.4 million injuries nationally during the 2005-2006 academic year. Most injuries affected the lower and upper extremities, followed by the head/face/neck and trunk. Specifically, the most frequently injured body sites were the ankle, the head/face and the thigh/upper leg.
 
The average injury rate was found to be 2.5 injuries per 1,000 practices or competitions. Rates were higher in competition (4.6 injuries per thousand competition exposures) than in practice (1.7 injuries per thousand player practice exposures). In practices, the highest rate of injury occurred in football (2.5), followed by wrestling (2.0) and boys' soccer (1.6). In competition, the highest rate of injury occurred in football (12.1), followed by girls' (5.2) and boys' (4.2) soccer.
 
"Given the growing population of high school athletes along with the important physical and social benefits of sport participation, reducing sport injury rates is a high priority," Comstock said. "Continued surveillance is warranted to monitor changes in injury patterns over time and to assess the effects of rule and equipment changes. Additionally, continued research into particular injuries, such as sprains/strains, concussions and lower extremity injuries, may give researchers insights into new training enhancements or improvements in protective equipment. Continued surveillance is needed to monitor changes in injury patterns over time, to better understand risk factors for injuries and to evaluate injury prevention efforts." 
 
To review the report, "An epidemiologic comparison of high school sports injuries sustained in practice and competition," in its entirety, visit http://www.nata.org/jat/readers/archives/43.2/attr-43-02-197.pdf.
 
Athletic trainers are unique health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession. NATA advocates for equal access to athletic trainers for patients and clients of all ages and supports H.R. 1846. Only 42% of high schools have access to athletic trainers. NATA members adhere to a code of ethics. Visit www.nata.org for more information.

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