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Child soccer injuries decrease

Better gear or changed rules might have played a role in U.S. decline.

February 01, 2007|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

After reaching a peak of 135,000 injuries in 2000, the number of children injured playing soccer in the U.S. has begun a gradual decline, though researchers are uncertain why the game seems to have become safer, according to a study published today.

The study estimated there were 120,000 child injuries serious enough to require an emergency room visit in 2003, the latest year analyzed by the researchers.

The number represented about 1.7 soccer injuries per 1,000 children, according to the study.

Report co-author Dawn Comstock, an epidemiologist at Columbus Children's Research Institute in Ohio, said researchers did not look at reasons for the drop, but she surmised better equipment or rule changes might have played a role.

Overall, the number of soccer injuries among children ages 2 to 18 have significantly increased from the 100,000 estimated in 1990. But during that period, the number of players has skyrocketed: There has been a more than doubling of high school players, from 305,000 to 660,000, according to the study.

"What this tells us is actually soccer is less dangerous than it was in 1990," said Dr. James Gamble, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University.

"The benefits far outweigh the risks," said Gamble, who was not connected to the study.

According to previous studies of high school sports injuries, soccer ranks about in the middle, about equal to boy's wrestling and girl's basketball.

This study, published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, analyzed data covering 14 years from 100 emergency rooms around the country. The researchers estimated there were 1.6 million injuries and 79 deaths nationwide over that period. Most of the injuries were minor, with only 1.6% of the children being hospitalized. Sprains and contusions accounted for about 60% of the injuries.

Children ages 2 to 4 were more than twice as likely to be injured in the face, head or neck compared with older youths. And about 5% of 2- to 4-year-olds were hospitalized, compared with 1.5% of older children.

Boys were more likely to be hospitalized than girls and accounted for about 59% of the injuries. About 18% of their injuries were to the face, head and neck, compared with 13% for girls.

Girls were more likely to have ankle and knee injuries, which made up 35% of their injuries, compared with 26% for boys. Girls were also more likely to have sprains or strains than boys.

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jia-rui.chong@latimes.com

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