Family finances may impact injury rates
Researchers apparently believe that money may very well buy unhappiness. A recent study found that young athletes from higher income families suffer a 68 percent higher rate of injury due to overuse than athletes from lower income families. The higher income families in the study could afford private insurance and the other families were on Medicaid, which is subsidized public insurance.
The researchers also found that the athletes with private insurance who specialize in one sport doubled the number of those with public insurance. Researchers have known that athletes who concentrate on a specific sport are more prone to overuse injuries, but did not previously link the findings with family finances.
What’s behind the findings
The ongoing study, led by Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University Medical Center, includes athletes 7 to 18 years of age. The economic status of the athletes’ families is widespread, with a median income of $70,000. Specialization can cost thousands of dollars in equipment, fees, transportation, and private lessons, according to Jayanthi. Families that can afford those costs may be able to offer their athletes more opportunities to focus on one sport.
Researchers also noted that while all the athletes spent roughly 10 hours per week in organized sports, the amount of time spent in unstructured sports activities, such as backyard basketball and football, was significantly different. Those with private insurance spent an average of 5.2 hours each week while those with subsidized insurance averaged 7.1 hours.
Limiting risk of overuse
Overuse can result in stress fractures and ligament and cartilage injuries, sometimes sidelining young athletes months. Given the findings in the study, Jayanthi offers suggestions below to help reduce the risk of overuse injuries:
- Limit organized sports playing time to no more than twice that of unstructured play time.
- Limit the hours per week playing sports to the athlete’s age. (Ex: A 12-year-old should spend no more than 12 hours per week in sports activities.)
- Delay specializing in one sport until late adolescence.
- Athletes should take 1 to 3 month breaks from competition every year . The breaks don’t have to be consecutive.