Fractures among high school athletes have serious implications, study finds

High school sports are becoming increasingly popular with teens, and with that comes injuries. A new study reveals that fractures are not to be taken lightly. They are they fourth-most-common injury and can cause players to drop out of competition and rack up medical procedures.

The study, published recently in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at fractures that occurred among high school athletes at 100 randomly selected high schools around the country from 2005 to 2009. The injuries were categorized to determine who gets them, what causes them and what effect they may have.

Fractures were the fourth-most-common injury after ligament sprains, muscle strains and bruises. Football had the highest fracture rate, and volleyball had the lowest. Fractures happened more often during competition than in practice for every sport except volleyball.

Boys had it over girls when it came to fractures, sustaining 83% of all of those injuries. Fingers and hands were the most frequently fractured body part, followed by wrist and lower leg.

About 16.1% of fractures needed surgery -- way above the 4.9% required for other injuries. And among all injuries that needed surgery, fractures made up 26.9%, behind ligament sprains. About 95% of all fractures required at least one diagnostic imaging, which included X-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

Fractures also resulted in more time off from competition than other injuries. Most fractures required athletes to take three weeks or more off.

In the study, the authors wrote, “Participation in high school sports continues to increase in the United States. Unless effective prevention efforts are implemented, the number of fractures sustained by high school athletes will also increase. The financial and time burdens resulting from fractures include expensive surgeries, diagnostic testing and restricted participation from sports. These can severely impact adolescent athletes and their families and can negatively affect their present and future activities.”

-- Jeannine Stein