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The number of young people hurt while participating in the sport surged 36 percent between 1991 and 2008 -- from about 7,700 injuries to nearly 10,500, according to researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Participation in track is a great way to encourage children and adolescents to remain physically active," the study's senior author, Lara McKenzie, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, said in a hospital news release. "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."
In the United States, only football attracts more children and teenage participants, the study says.
Track and field activities include sprinting, cross country, running, hurdles, relays, stretching and drills. The researchers used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to track nationwide injuries resulting from the sport.
Over the course of the 18-year study, the researchers noted that more than 159,000 children and teens from 10 to 18 years old were treated in emergency rooms for injuries they got while engaging in the sport.
Some injuries occurred more often than others. Fifty-two percent of those hurt were diagnosed with a sprain or a strain. Fractures accounted for 17 percent of the track-related injuries.
In 59 percent of cases, the young people were running when they got hurt, the study pointed out. The kids were attempting hurdles in another 23 percent of injuries.
"We found that the most commonly injured body parts varied across activity and across age group. For instance, elementary students were more likely to sustain upper extremity injuries while high school students were more likely to sustain lower leg injuries," added McKenzie, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine.
"With this in mind, track-related injury prevention efforts may need to be tailored by activity for different age groups in order to most effectively address the injury concerns the athletes are facing," she said.
The study was published in the journal Physician and Sportsmedicine.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Copyright © 2012 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCE: Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, July 3, 2012