The perils of summer for kids

June 27, 2008

Summertime is associated with camping, sports, and other physically engaging activities for children. However, the more kids become active, the risk of injuries and other health issues increases accordingly. These facts and figures may be useful when speaking to parents about preventing summer injuries.

Summertime is often associated with camping, sports, and other physically engaging activities for children. However, the more kids become active, the risk of injuries and other health issues increases accordingly. The facts and figures noted below may be useful when speaking to parents about preventing summer injuries.

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the June Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, close to 97,000 infants, children, and teens from birth to age 19 were treated each year in emergency departments for outdoor recreational activities from 2004 to 2005.1 The 10-to-19 age group, along with the 20-to-29 age group, accounted for the greatest percentage of injuries in the study.

The study recommended the following preventive methods:

  • Wear the right kind of helmet for different activities
  • Be aware of, and don't exceed, physical skill and experience levels
  • Check and maintain outdoor activity equipment
  • Always have a first-aid kit readily available
  • Keep other people informed of one's whereabouts in case of emergencies

A study published in the June Pediatrics that examined 100 US high schools from 2005 to 2007 found that 1.26 injuries occur per 1,000 baseball exposures among players.2 Most baseball-related injuries were ligament and muscle strains or bruises. Nearly 18% of injuries were to the shoulder, 14% were to the ankle, 12% were to the head and face, 9% to the hand/finger, and 8% to the thigh/upper leg.

Twelve percent of injuries resulted from a batted ball. Of these, 48% involved the head and face, while 16% involved the mouth and teeth. In fact, batted-ball injuries may be a particular risk, as these types of injuries required surgery 18% of the time, while other baseball-related injuries required surgery 7% of the time.

Study recommendations for limiting baseball injuries included:

  • Before starting a game of high school baseball, safety devices such as mouth guards and eye protection should be used by adolescent pitchers, infielders, and batters.
  • Other safety devices, such as face shields, are not commonly used at high schools, so efforts to make use of these safety devices may reduce injury levels.

However, it's not just playtime that runs the risk of injuring kids, but summer work as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, have joined forces to educate the public about lawn mower safety. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that approximately 16,200 children under age 19 were treated for lawn mower-related injuries last year in doctors' offices, clinics, and emergency rooms.

Lawn mower safety recommendations include:

  • Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any kind of lawn mower, and at least 16 before operating a ride-on mower
  • Pick up any lawn debris before mowing
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection
  • Never let children ride as passengers on a ride-on mower

Arming parents with facts and figures such as these may help prevent your patients and other children from being part of national injury statistics.

References
1. Flores AH, Haileyesus T, Greenspan AI: National estimates of outdoor recreational injuries treated in emergency departments, United States, 2004-2005. Wilderness Environ Med 2008;19:91
2. Collins CL, Comstock RD: Epidemiological features of high school baseball injuries in the United States, 2005-2007. Pediatrics 2008;121:1181