High School Sports Injuries

Kidney injuries from high school sports are rare compared to head injuries

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Often teens with only one kidney are not allowed to play contact sports for fear of hurting the remaining kidney. It turns out other equally serious injuries are the greater risk.

A recent study crunched the numbers of high school contact sport injuries. Head, neck, spine and mild traumatic brain injury numbers are high and a cause for concern, over the low rate of kidney injuries.

"Consider putting your kids in low-contact sports!"

Matthew Grinsell, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatric nephrology at University of Utah Health Care facility, led a study into sports-related kidney injuries in high school students.

Many doctors refuse to give teens a pass in their required physical examination to play a contact sport if they only have one kidney.

The assumption is that the remaining kidney could be damaged in a collision and the injury could be life threatening. Dr. Grinsell’s team wanted to find actual proof of pending danger by looking at data from sports injuries.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) did a High School Injury Surveillance Study from 1995-1997 in 240 schools. Rates of sports-related injuries and organ specific injuries were compared from this data.

Data was collected on more than 4.4 million teens that had participated in at least one game or practice. Out of this group, 23,666 injuries occurred.

Kidney injuries made up only 18 reports compared to 3,450 knee, 2,069 head/neck/spine, 1,219 mild traumatic brain, 148 eye, and 17 testicle injuries.

Kidney injuries were most often from playing football or soccer. None of the injuries required surgery, nor did they result in loss of kidney function.

Authors said, “Kidney injuries occur significantly less often than other injuries during sport. These data do not support limiting sport participation by athletes with single kidneys.”

But what about head, neck and spine injuries? The odds are 115 times higher that a teen participating in just one game or practice in a contact sport will incur a head, neck or spine injury over a kidney injury.

The odds are 68 times higher that a high school athlete will have a mild traumatic brain injury compared to a kidney injury.

While Dr. Grinsell’s study did prove the point that contact sports injuries to kidney are rare, it proved an even more valid point that other injuries are not rare. 

This study was published in the July issue of Pediatrics. Funding for the study was provided by a grant from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 6, 2012
Last Updated:
December 7, 2012