Background: In all industrialized countries, injuries constitute the primary public health problem during adolescence; study of long-term outcome of injuries to adolescents remains poor.
Population and methods: A longitudinal epidemiological study performed on 8,140 students in 17 secondary schools in Paris and the Department of the Côte-d'Or followed the development over one year of 777 adolescents who had injuries in 1990. All injuries, both within and outside school, were included if they fulfilled the following criteria: school absence or excused from vocational training exceeding or equal to 2 days, or excused from physical education classes for at least 14 days.
Results: One year after the injury, 13% of the adolescents were still bothered by their injury, especially those who were older and the girls. Among described impairments, musculo-skeletal problems (88% of cases) were the major difficulty. These impairments were primarily in the lower limbs (53%). Unaesthetic scars were found in 17% of cases, and a psychological impact was found in 16.5% of the adolescents. The presence of sequelae was related to the type of initial lesion (present in 24% of head injuries and in 16% of cases affecting the lower limbs). The most serious difficulties were caused by dislocations, serious sprains and fractures. One year after the injury, sequelae were serious in 10% of those adolescents still experiencing problems; they had some impact on the daily life of the adolescents in 36% of cases, that is, 5% of all adolescents experiencing an injury. These sequelae were responsible for a high level of consumption of medical services.
Conclusions: Although observed sequelae were relatively minor, the high frequency of injuries during adolescence, as well as their high economic costs, justify the most appropriate care available for victims of injuries, even those which appear benign. In addition, longitudinal studies should be prepared using adapted tools (scales for the evaluation of the gravity of injury sequelae).