Background The several health benefits of regular physical activity (PA) in children are well known. Participation in PA, however, also increases the risk of adverse effects, such as injuries. However, reliable descriptive data on PA injuries in younger children is lacking.
Objective Describe the incidence, severity and cost of injuries resulting from physical education (PE), sports and leisure time PA in 10–12 year old children.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Primary schools.
Participants 995 children aged 10–12 years.
Interventions Weekly exposure to sports, PE and leisure time PA was estimated for each participant during the 2006–2007 school year. An injury was recorded if it caused the child to at least stop the current activity. The parents of the injured child reported all associated direct and indirect costs in a cost diary.
Main outcome measures Injury incidence density (ID) and related costs.
Results A total of 119 injuries were reported by 104 children, resulting in an overall injury ID of 0.48 per 1000 h of exposure (95% CI 0.38 to 0.57). ID was lowest for leisure time PA, followed by PE and sports, respectively. Overall for girls (ID 0.60; 95% CI 0.45 to 0.75) a higher injury ID was reported than for boys (ID 0.37; 95% CI 0.26 to 0.48). The mean direct and indirect costs were, respectively, 131€ (SD 213€) and 57€ (SD 159€). The highest costs were found for upper extremity injuries, as in general these were the more severe injuries.
Conclusion PA-related injuries are common in children and result in high associated costs. Girls require special attention as they seem to be at higher injury risk. Even so intervention programmes that prevent upper extremity injuries will have the greatest short-term impact for public health.