Background: Despite the growth in youth sports in the United States, there is little information regarding sports participation in children with impairments, and specifically those with brachial plexus birth palsy (BPBP). The purpose of this investigation was to characterize the degree of sports participation, level of perceived diminished participation, and risk of sports-related injury in children with BPBP.
Methods: Eighty-five children with BPBP between 6 and 18 years of age were queried about their participation in athletics. Information regarding sports played, duration of activity, level of participation, and injuries sustained was obtained and compared with published age-matched normative pediatric data. In addition, measurements of upper limb function and patient/parent-derived functional outcomes assessments were obtained using the modified Mallet classification, the Toronto Test Score, the Hospital for Sick Children Active Movement Scale, and the Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument.
Results: Similar to the published normative pediatric data, 75 (88%) of BPBP children played sports, with 61 (72%) involved in individual and 54 (63%) in team sports. The children participated in a broad variety of sports, including those requiring upper extremity dexterity such as baseball, basketball, swimming, and gymnastics. Although most participated at a local/recreational level, some children did compete at the professional/national level. Types of sports injuries were also similar to published pediatric norms, with bruises and sprains being most common. Although the study cohort had lower Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument functional scores than the general population, these scores did not statistically differ between those children who played sports and those who did not.
Conclusions: Despite differences in upper extremity and overall functional scores, children with BPBP safely participate in a broad variety of sports, at levels similar to published pediatric norms.