More children suffer head injuries playing recreational sport than team sport

August 20, 2019

An Australian/ New Zealand study examining childhood head injuries has found that children who do recreational sports like horse riding, skate boarding and bike riding are more likely to suffer serious head injuries* than children who play contact sport like AFL or rugby.

Research**, conducted by the PREDICT research network, Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), published on Wiley and soon to be published in the Australian Medical Journal, examined the data of 8,857 children presenting with head injuries to ten emergency departments in Australian and New Zealand hospitals.

A third of the children, who were aged between five and 18 years, injured themselves playing sport. Of these children four out of five were boys.

Lead research author, MCRI's Professor Franz Babl, says the team looked at 'íntracranial' injuries in children because while there is a lot of interest about sport and concussion, less is understood about the severity of head injuries children suffer while playing sport.

"The study found that in children who presented to the emergency departments after head injury and participated in recreational sports like horse riding, skate boarding and bike riding were more likely to sustain serious head injuries than children who played contact sport like AFL, rugby, soccer or basketball," he says.

"We found that 45 of the 3,177 sports-related head injuries were serious and classified as clinically important Traumatic Brain Injury (ciTBI), meaning the patient required either neuro-surgery, at least two nights in hospital and/or being placed on a breathing machine. One child died as a result of head injuries."

Prof Babl says that the sports which resulted in the most frequent reason for presentation to emergency departments included bike riding (16 per cent), rugby (13 per cent), AFL (10 per cent), other football (9 per cent), and soccer (8 per cent).

The most frequent causes of serious injury included bike riding (44 per cent), skateboarding (18 per cent), horse riding (16 per cent), with AFL and rugby resulting in one serious head injury each and soccer resulting none.

A total of 524 patients with sports-related head injuries (16 per cent) needed CT imaging, and 14 children required surgery.
-end-
Researchers from The Royal Children's Hospital, University of Melbourne, Perth Children's Hospital, University of Western Australia, Queensland Children's Hospital, Children's Health Research Centre, Brisbane, Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, Children's Hospital at Westmead, The Townsville Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, University of Padova, Starship Children's Health, Auckland, University of Auckland, Monash Children's Hospital and KidzFirst Middlemore Hospital, Auckland, also contributed to the findings.

* Clinically important sport-related traumatic brain injuries in children

**Publication: Nitaa Eapen, Gavin A Davis, Meredith L Borland, Natalie Phillips, Ed Oakley, Stephen Hearps, Amit Kochar, Sarah Dalton, John Cheek, Jeremy Furyk, Mark D Lyttle, Silvia Bressan, Louise Crowe, Stuart Dalziel, Emma Tavender, Franz E Babl. 'Clinically important sport-related traumatic brain injuries in children,' Australian Medical Journal.

Funded by The National Health and Medical Research Council, Centre of Research Excellence for Paediatric Emergency Medicine, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, the Emergency Medicine Foundation, Brisbane, Perpetual Philanthropic Services; Auckland Medical Research Foundation and the A + Trust (Auckland District Health Board); WA Health Targeted Research Funds 2013; and the Townsville Hospital and Health Service Private Practice Research and Education Trust Fund; and was supported by the Victorian Government Infrastructure Support Program. Franz Babl was partly funded by an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship and a Melbourne Campus Clinician Scientist fellowship. Stuart Dalziel was partly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

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