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Catherine Holecko

More sleep may mean fewer injuries

By October 26, 2012

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In just the past six or so weeks I've witnessed a couple of scary ice skating injuries. First it was a broken leg and then, just last night, a concussion. The head injury turned out to be mild, but as a precaution, the skater was placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital. It was a pretty alarming sight.

Both skaters are now recovering well, and their accidents were just that--accidents, out of anyone's control. But having seen them does kind of make me want to deck my kid out in a full set of hockey pads, instead of a sparkly dress and a sock bun, when she skates.

Since I can't do that, I focus on making sure she knows safety rules and is strong and healthy. I also try to make sure she gets enough sleep. We all know that sufficient sleep is important for making sure our kids do well in school, fight off infections, and (let's face it) don't behave like monsters. And recent research shows that a good night's sleep may also help prevent sports injuries.

Teen athletes who slept eight or more hours each night were 68 percent less likely to be injured than peers who regularly slept less, according to Matthew Milewski, MD. He presented an abstract of his study last weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference. He and colleagues studied habits, behaviors, and injuries in a group of middle and high school athletes at a California school.

Dr. Milewski found that hours of sleep per night was significantly associated with a decreased likelihood of injury. On the flip side, grade level was associated with higher injury rates (older kids were more likely to be injured). But none of the following seemed to affect injury rates: gender, weeks of participating in sports per year, hours of participation per week, number of sports, strength training, private coaching, and whether kids said they had fun playing 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," said Dr. Milewski. Instead, "what we found is that the two most important facts were hours of sleep and grade in school."

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