Mechanisms of Pediatric Head Injuries in Team Sports: Implications for Prevention

Keywords: traumatic brain injury, prevention, children, sports, traumatic brain injury

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     Research into the mechanisms of sports-related brain injuries in order to prevent occurrence is incomplete.
     The objective of this study was to analyze the mechanisms of pediatric brain injuries for all major team sports in Canada.
     The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) is an emergency department-based injury surveillance system in 11 pediatric and 4 general hospitals across Canada. The CHIRPP database (1990-2009) was searched for closed head injury cases among 5-19 year-olds in ice hockey, soccer, football, basketball, baseball, and rugby, including both recreational and formal settings.
     A descriptive analysis of the injury mechanisms was performed, and differences by age and gender were explored.
     A total of 12,799 sports-related closed head injuries were identified (16.2% of all closed head injuries in CHIRPP). The greatest proportion of injuries, relative to other age groups, due to contact with fixed structures in the environment occurred in the 5-9-year-old group for football and soccer. In ice hockey, rugby, and basketball, striking another player was the most common injury mechanism. In baseball, a common mechanism in the 5-9-year-old group was being hit with a bat by a batter who was too close (26.1% males, 28.3% females).
     This is a retrospective study.
     Many of these injury mechanisms are preventable (i.e., hit by a bat or striking structures in unsafe environments), and greater safety education surrounding sports contact (i.e., body checking in hockey) is warranted.
     The data from this study help to define priorities for brain injury prevention across Canada and for countries where these sports are played.


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