Girls are at an increased risk of sport injuries, a new study shows — and girls who participate in field and track are at a higher risk than anyone. Research done by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows that injuries due to overuse, such as stress fractures and tendon or joint pain, are on the rise. This is especially true for young girls. Every year, 20 million days of school are lost by the 12 million young people, ages five to 22, who suffer from a sports-related injury.
“I was devastated. At first I didn’t know what it was,” said Elizabeth Oosterhout, a runner who suffered from a foot injury. “Looking back on it I was thinking was there something I could’ve done to prevent this.” Oosterhout participated in track at Tahoma High School and was awarded a scholarship to run at Montana State. On an 11-mile run, she got a pain in her foot, and later learned she was suffering from metatarsalgia, a common overuse injury.
“We see that these young people are spending more time playing sports both in competition and in practice. So there’s a correlation there in the amount of time they’re spending and increased incidents of injuries,” said Dr. Thomas Best of the OSU Wexner Medical Center.
In seven years, he has seen more that 3,000 injuries from 20 high school sports, the majority of which occur to those participating in track. That sport is followed by girls’ field hockey, girls’ lacrosse, and boys’ swimming and diving. Part of the problem may be linked to teens’ spending up to 18 hours a week playing and practicing their sport. The get competitive, and become incredibly focused and dedicated, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
“These youngsters who are playing a single sport may in fact be a risk factor for these overuse injuries, because their bodies are seeing the same repetitive loads with one sport,” said Dr. Best.
So the best advice for kids? Play different sports in order to change up what muscle groups they’re using. Make rest and diet important as well, since a bad enough injury could hurt them for the rest of their lives. Those with children in outdoor sports should also remember that a child’s skin is more delicate than that of an adult. Make sure they wear sunscreen and stay hydrated, and if they’ll be out for more than an hour, a sports drink is probably a good idea.