Which North Carolina High School Athletes Are at the Highest Risk For Injury?

Which North Carolina High School Athletes Are at the Highest Risk For Injury?

Parents, coaches, and of course the student-athletes themselves are concerned about sports-related injuries among high school athletes. An injury may limit a young person’s choices for college and a career.

A medical research foundation in 2006 published the results of a research study of injuries among high school student-athletes in North Carolina. They hoped to develop a body of knowledge about sports injuries in this population that could lead to reduction and even prevention of injuries.

The study took into account any injury from participation in a high school sport that either limited the student’s full participation in the sport the day following the injury, or required medical attention by a medical professional (athletic trainer, physician, nurse, emergency medical technician, emergency room personnel, or dentist).

The study counted concussions, fractures, and eye injuries regardless of whether they limited student participation or required medical attention.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Injury Study collected data between 1996 and 1999 on injuries and risk factors from a sample of high school varsity athletes from 100 public high schools in North Carolina. School personnel trained by the study sponsors collected the data.

Data was gathered on sports played by both boys and girls:

  • soccer,
  • track,
  • basketball,
  • softball,
  • volleyball, and
  • cheerleading.

Also included were boys-only sports such as wrestling, baseball, and football.

The purpose of the study was to obtain data and analyze it to estimate the injury incidence and to identify risk factors for injury in organized high school varsity athletics in North Carolina.

The researchers were aware of other studies that tended to show an association between injuries and such risk factors as type of sport, gender, and history of injury. These risk factors occurred in both high school populations and other athletic populations.

In addition, low levels of physical fitness have been identified as a risk factor in other physically active populations, for example in the military.

However, the role of other risk factors, such as age, body mass index (BMI), and the quality of coaching, was not as clear.

A total of 15,038 athletes, 19,977 athlete-seasons, and 1,032,117 athlete-exposures were observed for all 12 sports over the three-year study period. During the entire study period, there were 2,559 injured athletes and 2,990 injuries, an average of 997 injuries per year in participating schools.

Based on these data, there is an estimated average of 10,531 injuries per year statewide.

The statistics led the researchers to conclude that the highest risk factors in this study, as in previous studies, were:

  • gender – (male),
  • sport – (football), and
  • having had a prior injury.

Perhaps one of the most significant conclusions and a potential strategy for the future to emerge from this study is the influence of prior injury on the injury rate. This suggests that prevention of injury in the first place and proper treatment and rehabilitation following an injury may prevent injuries among high school athletes.

An online review of cases in progress in 2014 shows that this is a nationwide problem and reveals a disturbing pattern of possible disregard for the safety of young athletes:

  • A college cheerleader in Nebraska was paralyzed after he was practicing a tumbling maneuver during gymnastics class. A court held that the class was a cheerleading “practice session” and covered under the college’s insurance policy. The court noted that cheerleading is the second most dangerous sport after football, according to the insurers of National Collegiate Athletic Association. Patterson v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., No. 12-3838, (U.S. Court of Appeals, Eight Circuit).
  • A high school football player suffered severe traumatic brain injury as a result of two collisions with teammates during practice. His parents alleged that, following the first collision with a teammate and symptoms consistent with concussion, he was told by coaching staff to continue to practice, and he then suffered a second collision and worse symptoms. Mann et al. v Palmerton Area School District et al., Civil Action No. 3:14-cv-68 (U.S. District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania).
  • A 13-year-old eighth grade student wrestler suffered a fractured jaw when matched against an opponent who allegedly weighed 25 pounds more than he did. League rules allowed young wrestlers to “wrestle up” and compete against members of the next-highest weight class. The young wrestler’s parents allege that coaching staff did not monitor their son’s’ weight loss due to exercise over the course of the season, leading to the large weight disparity and his injury. R.H., A Minor, et al. v. Los Gatos Union School District, et al. Case No. 11-CV-03729-LHK, (U.S. District Court, Northern District of California).

If you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligence of another, contact an experienced personal injury attorney from the Tatum Law Firm today for a free consultation.