An estimated 12 million athletes between the ages of 5 and 22 suffer sports-related injuries annually leading to 20 million lost days of school and approximately $33 billion spent in health care costs in the U.S. alone. But what do we know about the health-related quality of life in these injured athletes?
According to a new study, developing an understanding of the overall effects of injury in adolescents is important for several reasons. First, injuries from sports participation may lead to dropout from physical activity. Second, poorly managed physical injuries may lead to osteoarthritis and other significant and disabling long-term health problems. Lastly, the consequences of injury may influence areas of the adolescent’s life outside of athletic activities.
The study reveals that injuries among adolescent athletes, as expected, affected physical functioning and pain; however, the study also found that functioning on other life quality measures also decreased, which suggests the need to assess injured athlete’s minds, as well as their bodies.
“Recent Injury and Health-Related Quality of Life,” published in the November 2009 Journal of Athletic Training, the scientific publication of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, recommends coaches, teachers, athletic trainers and other medical personnel recognize the range of influences that injuries may have on youth athletes. To read the article in full, please visit
“By incorporating patient self-report measures, we can better assess the effects of injuries across a broad spectrum of health-related criteria, said the study’s lead author, Tamara C. Valovich McLeod, PhD, ATC. “This approach will help us have a more holistic understanding of life quality after injuries occur.”
The authors also recommend that parents, coaches, athletic trainers and others:

  • Keep injured athletes involved with their teams in some manner (watching practices, keeping score, etc.) while undergoing rehabilitation so that the injured child still has that connection. Parents should be encouraged to ask their health care providers about the overarching impact of the child’s injury.
  • Be aware of the child’s own self-assessment during the rehabilitation period to best understand how quality of life is compromised. With proper support and awareness, parents, coaches, athletic trainers and others can watch for signs of improvement or setbacks.
  • Recognize the impact of injury on the athlete’s quality of life, not just that the athlete may not be able to participate.
  • Understand that sport-related injury can not only cause physical limitations, but can also affect the social aspects of injured players’ lives. They may distance themselves from friends, family, coaches and other influential people in their lives.
  • Identify this phenomenon and account for it in assessing proper injury management.

The authors reinforce that research has shown the positive effects of physical activity on various psychological factors affecting children and that physical activity in the adolescent is a great predictor of physical activity in adults. “There is also evidence of a correlation between physical activity and life satisfaction,” added McLeod. “Our hope is that this research will shed important quality of life information on the athlete and help return him or her to activity as safely and effectively as possible.”

Compared with their uninjured peers, adolescent athletes with recent self-reported injuries displayed lower scores on two generic measures of health-related quality of life: a health survey questionnaire Short Form-36 and pediatric outcomes data collection instrument (PODCI). “We noted lower scores not only in the areas of physical functioning and pain, but also in social and global functioning,” McLeod said. “By including these measures, we can better assess and follow an adolescent athlete’s overall health status following injury.”

Methodology note: A convenience sample of non-injured and injured adolescent athletes was recruited from eight Arizona high schools. All volunteers completed a self-administered brief health status questionnaire followed by the SF-36 version 2.0 and PODCI in a counterbalanced manner. The surveys were administered in a classroom or the athletic training facility at each high school and took approximately 30 minutes to complete. The sample included 160 uninjured and 45 injured student athletes who had participated in eleven primary sports. Twenty-two percent of the sample self-reported a recent injury: most were to the lower extremity followed by upper extremity, head or spine.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession. Only 42 percent of high schools have access to athletic trainers. NATA members adhere to a code of ethics. NATA supports the right of all patients to have equal access to the services of athletic trainers through the Athletic Trainers’ Equal Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 1137). Visit


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