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Study Examines Shoulder-Injury Rates Among High School Student-Athletes

From the 2005-06 through 2011-12 school years, U.S. high school athletes who participated in football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, baseball, and softball sustained an estimated 820,691 shoulder injuries, suggests a new study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed data from the High School Reporting Information Online, the internet-based data collection tool used in the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, to generate a national estimate for the number of shoulder injuries sustained by high school athletes. Nine sports were included in the study—boys' football, boys' and girls' soccer, girls' volleyball, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' wrestling, boys' baseball, and girls' softball—with 100 randomly selected high schools participating.

Overall, high school athletes in the study sustained 2,798 shoulder injuries during 13,002,321 athlete exposures, which were defined as every instance of an athlete appearing in one game or one practice. That injury rate of 2.15 per 10,000 athlete exposures corresponded to a nationally estimated 820,691 shoulder injuries during the seven-year study period.

Below is the sport-by-sport breakdown of the actual number of shoulder injuries in the study, along with the nationally estimated number of shoulder injuries:

The highest rate of injury was in football (4.86 injuries per 10,000 athletic exposures) and the lowest was in girls' soccer (0.42 per 10,000 athletic exposures). Shoulder injuries comprised 8.4 percent of all injuries to U.S. high school athletes throughout the study period.

Student-athletes sustained a higher rate of shoulder injuries during competition compared to practice, according to the study. The only sport with a higher shoulder-injury rate in practice than in competition was girls' volleyball.

Sprains/strains (37.9 percent) and dislocations/separations (29.2 percent) constituted a majority of the injuries sustained by both male and female student-athletes. Boys were more likely than girls to sustain fractures or contusions, while girls suffered higher rates of strains/sprains. Nearly 85 percent of all the shoulder injuries sustained were new.

Roughly 40 percent of the student-athletes who sustained shoulder injuries were able to return to play within one week, while 8.2 percent were medically disqualified either for the season or for their career. Just under 8 percent of student-athletes required surgery for their injuries.

"Continued prospective surveillance is necessary to monitor injury rates, to gain further information about risk factors leading to shoulder injuries, and ultimately to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based interventions to prevent future shoulder injuries," the authors conclude.

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