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High school sports can produce permanent shoulder injury

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In recent years, much attention has been focused on concussions that can occur from high school contact sports. However, other high school sports injuries can result in permanent damage. A new study published online on January 13 in the journal Pediatrics evaluated shoulder injuries from high school sports. They found differences related to gender as well as type of sports activity.

The aim of the study was to evaluate shoulder injuries among a nationally representative sample of high school athletes engaged in nine different sports: boys’ football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, and baseball; girls’ soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball. Data was obtained from High School Reporting Information Online. After reviewing the data, the researchers calculated and quantified shoulder injuries.

The investigators found that during the 2005–2006 through the 2011–2012 academic years, high school athletes sustained 2,798 shoulder injuries during. These injuries occurred among 13,002,321 athlete exposures, resulting in an injury rate of 2.15 per 10,000 athlete exposures. This rate corresponds to a nationally estimated 820,691 injuries during this time period. The investigators found that the injury rates were higher during competition, compared to practice (3.17-fold increased risk). Not surprisingly, the highest injury rate occurred with football (4.86) and the lowest injury rate occurred with girls’ soccer (0.42). The most common types of injury were strain/sprain (37.9%) and dislocation/separation (29.2%). Compared to girls, boys were more likely to sustain their injuries after contact with another person or with the playing surface. For 7.9% of the injuries, surgical repair was necessary. Time loss from athletic participation varied among sports; 40.7% of the athletes returned to the playing field within one week’ however, 8.2% were medically disqualified for the season or their entire career.

The authors concluded that high school shoulder injury rates and patterns varied by gender and type of sport. They recommended that prospective (forward-looking) surveillance should be done to determine trends and patterns of shoulder injuries. This surveillance could lead to the development of evidence-based interventions to prevent shoulder injuries.

The researchers are affiliated with: the Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute; Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; and Colorado School of Public Health and University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado.

Take home message:
Although a shoulder injury is not as threatening to overall health as brain injury, it can result in long-term health problems. Most professional football players are left with permanent orthopedic problems (e.g., knee or shoulder damage) and a number of them have brain damage. Thus, one must weigh the benefits vs. the risks. Body build is also a factor. A slender individual with a lower body mass is at increased risk than a brawny thick-boned individual; however, all participants in contact sports are at risk for permanent injury.