As record viewership for the World Cup suggests, soccer has never been more popular in the United States. But as kids go outside to imitate their new heroes, they might run an increased risk of injury: the number of children sent to the emergency room with soccer-related injuries grew by 19.8% in recent years.
NerdWallet analyzed five years’ worth of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to determine the top activities that send children ages 5 to 14 to the hospital. Soccer came fifth on that list, behind football, biking, basketball, and baseball and softball. Other sports and activities seeing a rise in child-related injuries from 2007 to 2012 were volleyball (22.1%), basketball (21.4%), hockey (14%) and baseball (3.1%).
Soccer has become the second-most popular youth sport in the United States, behind only basketball, according to a 2012 ESPN survey. This year, for the first time in the 20-year history of the ESPN Sports Poll Annual Report, the popularity of Major League Soccer among 12-to-17-year-olds has caught up with that of Major League Baseball.
“If one looks at the popularity of MLS in this country I suspect you will see a commensurate rise in injuries, not from a increased prevalence but an increase because more kids are playing more often,” Dr. Russell Petrie, a sports medicine orthopedist from Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California, told NerdWallet. “More total hours played of a sport increases absolute injury numbers.”
Ankle sprain and ACL injuries are common.
“In goalies, we will often see soft-tissue shoulder injuries when goalies dive, and finger injuries when the ball hits the hand,” Petrie said. Also common are fractures where tendon or ligaments get pulled off the pelvis of the dominant fracture side, he added.
Experts agree that the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh any remote chance your child will get injured. Still, it’s a reminder that when children play, they need to play safely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.
Photo via woodleywonderworks/Flickr. Infographic by Brian Yee. Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Injury Surveillance System.