Young Track Athletes Running Into Injuries

Risk of injury for youth who compete in track related sports

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

(RxWiki News) Participating in any sporting activity carries at least some risk of injury. New findings indicate that school track sports are disproportionately injuring young athletes. Why are track events injuring so many young people?

A new study revealed that track-related activities injure over 100,000 youth athletes per year — a number that has been on the rise for over ten years.

Researchers suggest medical professionals need to focus on injury prevention education.

"Talk to your coach about avoiding injuries."

Aside from winning medals, Olympic athletes may serve as role models for the public — especially kids who are looking to try new sports. Many athletes act as inspiration for youth to get involved with various sports; parents should be aware that their kids may be at risk for injury.

Researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's hospital revealed that track-related events put young athletes at risk for injury.

The study found that from 1991 through 2008, more than 159,000 athletes between the ages of 10 and 18 were treated in US emergency departments for track-related injuries. They also found that the annual number of track-related injuries increased 36 percent during the 18-year period, with 7,702 injuries in 1991 to 10,496 injuries in 2008.

“Participation in track is a great way to encourage children and adolescents to remain physically active,” said Lara McKenzie, PhD in public health, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy and senior author of the study. “However, the increase in injuries corresponding with the increased participation in this activity suggests we need to do a better job of preventing track-related injuries among our young athletes.”

Sprains and/or strains are the most common injury, making up 52 percent of the recorded injuries; fractures or dislocations were the second most common of the recorded injuries, making up 17 percent. Seven different track-related activities were studied: sprinting, cross country, running, hurdles, relays, stretching and/or drills, and "other" activities. Running and hurdles brought in the most injuries, with running causing 59 percent and hurdles causing 23 percent.

Researchers found that the most commonly injured body parts vary not only across activity, but across age group as well. Dr. McKenzie, who is a professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, explained that elementary students were more likely to sustain upper body injuries, while high school students were more likely to sustain lower body injuries.

Dr. McKenzie and team said this data is important to improve track-related, injury-prevention methods and that education should be tailored by activity and age group in order to effectively address the various risks young athletes are facing.

The study used a nationally representative sample to look at track-related injuries that were treated in US emergency departments.  This was the first study to do so.

This study was published in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine.

Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 21, 2012
Last Updated:
February 4, 2013