SIDELINE SLANTS SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER

KLEINSASSER
It’s a scene that will occur all too often across the country this fall.

A football game will be stopped because a player lies prone on the turf. Emergency medical personnel will carefully lift the player onto a stretcher. The player will be taken off the field. Another player will take his place. The game will resume.

Fortunately, football injuries are rarely life-threatening. But regardless of whether it’s life-threatening or life-altering, it’s always sobering.

Football arguably has become our nation’s favorite sport. It combines skill, strength, grace, strategy, teamwork and controlled violence. It’s unlikely you’ll watch a game without seeing someone limping off the field.

Football requires players to play with controlled aggression. One moment, players are doing their best to knock someone down. If that someone is injured and needs medical attention, those same players will bend their knees in prayer for the well-being of that opponent.

You could make a strong case that the human body wasn’t made to play football. There are too many knee, shoulder and head injuries.

In my opinion, two things have made football almost unacceptably dangerous at the collegiate and professional levels:

(1) players keep getting bigger and faster to the point that the physics are impossible to protect against;

(2) over-designed helmets turn heads into weapons and lead to, rather than prevent, serious head-neck injuries.

But this isn’t a football-bashing column. The fact is that sports can be hazardous to your health.

In the United States, more than 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports. When there are that many participants, injuries will happen.

Consider the following statistics from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

— About 3.5 million children and adolescents ages 14 and under get hurt annually playing sports or participating in recreational activities.

— Although death from a sports injury is rare, the leading cause of death from a sports-related injury is a brain injury.

— Sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents.

–The majority of head injuries sustained in sports or recreational activities occur during bicycling, skateboarding or skating incidents.

–More than 775,000 children and adolescents ages 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year.

Most of the injuries occurred as a result of falls, being struck by an object, collisions and overexertion during unorganized or informal sports activities.

Here’s a look at some sports/ activities and their injury rates in 1999:

— Basketball: Nearly 194,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball- related injuries.

–Baseball and softball: More than 99,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries. Baseball also has the highest fatality rate among sports for children ages 5 to 14, with three to four children dying from baseball injuries each year.

— Bicycling: More than 340,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. In addition, 203 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes in 1998.

— Football: More than 172,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football- related injuries.

— Soccer: About 81,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.

Those numbers are sobering, but physical activity is incredibly important as part of a healthy lifestyle. Yes, there are risks, but the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are far greater.

Steve Marshall, an assistant professor of epidemiology and orthopedics at the Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, “The risks to not being physically active are epidemic levels of obesity and diseases of inactivity that go along with it.”

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with various health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Statistics can be used and abused in any number of ways. As you go to bed tonight remember, more people die in bed than anywhere else.

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