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Study: Sleep Deficits Lead to Increased Injury Risk for Student-Athletes

Can a lack of sleep increase the likelihood of injuries for student-athletes?

According to a study presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' national conference in New Orleans, the answer appears to be a resounding yes, at least for middle- and high-school athletes.

Student-athletes in grades 7 through 12 who slept at least eight hours per night were 68 percent less likely to be injured than athletes who regularly slept for fewer than eight hours per night, according to the study.

A total of 112 middle- and high-school athletes (54 males and 58 females) completed a survey for the study in which they answered questions about the number of sports they played, how much time they dedicated to sports, and how much sleep they averaged each night.

"While other studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect cognitive skills and fine motor skills, nobody has really looked at this subject in terms of the adolescent athletic population," said Dr. Matthew Milewski, the author of the study, in a statement.

Milewski and his colleagues found a significant relationship between the number of hours a student-athlete sleeps on an average night and the likelihood of an injury. They also found that as student-athletes get older, the likelihood of injury increased by 2.3 times per grade level.

Meanwhile, students' gender, the number of sports they played, and the time spent on sports (per-week or per-year) weren't found to have any significant effect on the likelihood of injury. The type of sports they played was outside the scope of the study, but previous data from the National Athletic Trainers' Association has shown boys' football to carry a significantly higher injury rate than other interscholastic sports.

"When we started this study, we thought the amount of sports played, year-round play, and increased specialization in sports would be much more important for injury risk," Milewski said in a statement. "What we found is that the two most important facts were hours of sleep and grade in school."

Keep in mind, this study was presented on Sunday only as an abstract. Findings should be considered preliminary until the study is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

With that said... if you know a student-athlete who's been battling a swath of injuries, maybe it's time to pay closer attention to his or her sleep schedule, based on these preliminary findings.

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