Keeping Extreme Kids Safe in Their Extreme Sports

October 28, 2007

Extreme sports are a moving target - and so are the kids who play them.

Extreme sports are a moving target - and so are the kids who play them.

"The kinds of sports we used to think of as extreme - skydiving, scuba diving, rock climbing - have become mainstream activities," Andrew Gregory, MD, assistant professor of orthopedics and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, told AAP's National Conference & Exhibition Sunday morning. "Today we have to worry about the kinds of extreme sports kids see on television and try to top on their own."

Skateboarding, in-line skating, snowboarding, surfing, dirt bikes, BMX bikes, and snowmobiles are the kinds of activities about which today's pediatricians need to worry, he continued. Not only are these and other extreme sports inherently dangerous, but attitudes toward danger and injury have shifted.

"Extreme athletes today are proud of their injuries, and that attitude carries over to our pediatric patients," he said. "The ultimate today is to video the times you fall down and post them on YouTube. Injury is something to boast about, not something to avoid."

Extreme sports typically produce injury rates similar to contact sports, Dr. Gregory continued. But unlike football and many other contact sports, young extreme athletes tend to distain the use of protective equipment.

"It just doesn't look cool to them," he said. "Convincing them to use the helmets, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and other protective gear that can help protect them from injury is the biggest sports-related problem we face as pediatricians."

Injuries are a problem year-round, Dr. Gregory said, but the problem becomes more acute at Christmas. Many parents gift their children with scooters, in-line skates, snowboards, and other sports-related gifts . . . but the equipment is all they provide.

"You see the greatest number of injuries among beginners, which tends to peak just after Christmas," he said. "We should be encouraging parents to includes lessons and protective gear as part of that present."