Objective: To provide a critical review of the available literature on the descriptive epidemiology of pediatric sport-related injuries.
Data sources: MEDLINE (1966 to 2006) and SPORTDiscus (1975 to 2006) were searched to identify potentially relevant articles. A combination of medical subject headings and text words was used (epidemiology, children, adolescents, athletic injuries, sports, injury, and injuries). Additional references from the bibliographies of retrieved articles were also reviewed.
Study selection: Published research reports on the incidence and distribution of injury in children's and youth sports. Specific emphasis was placed on reviewing original studies, which report incidence rates (rate of injuries per unit athlete time). Forty-nine studies were selected for this review.
Data extraction: Data summarized include incidence of injury relative to who is affected by injury (sport, participation level, gender, and player position), where injury occurs (anatomical and environmental location), when injury occurs (injury onset and chronometry), and injury outcome (injury type, time loss, clinical outcome, and economic cost).
Data synthesis: There is little epidemiological data on injuries for some pediatric sports. Many of the studies retrieved were characterized by methodological short-comings and study differences that limit interpretation and comparison of findings across studies. Notwithstanding, the studies reviewed are encouraging and injury patterns that should be studied further with more rigorous study designs to confirm original findings and to probe causes of injury and the effectiveness of preventive measures.
Conclusions: Incidence and severity of injury are high in some child and youth sports. This review will assist in targeting the relevant groups and in designing future research on the epidemiology of pediatric sports injuries. Well-designed descriptive and analytical studies are needed to identify the public health impact of pediatric sport injury.