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Lighter balls for younger children

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The incidence of hand and wrist injuries from balls used by children in sporting activities may be reduced by increasing awareness of parents and coaches, using lighter balls, and introducing weight categories for players.

The case notes of all children aged 6–13 years attending the accident and emergency department of the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital from January to December 2001 as a result of a wrist, hand, or finger injury sustained from a blow by a ball were reviewed and the cause, type, and severity of the injury noted.

Altogether 187 children (125 boys, 69%) were seen over the study period. Football (soccer) resulted in 120 (64%) of the injuries, with 93 (78%) sustained by boys. Serious injuries were noted in 69 cases—67 fractures and two dislocations (37% of the total presentations). The fracture rate was higher in the injuries sustained outside school.

All injuries in this study were caused by a blow from a ball. Most football injuries in youngsters are mild, but their severity increases with age as children become heavier and achieve higher skill levels. The study concluded with the following recommendations. Firstly, using lighter balls for younger children would reduce the force of a blow. Secondly, weight categories would ensure that heavier players were not kicking or throwing balls at lighter players. Thirdly, awareness of the risk of hand and wrist injuries among parents and coaches should be increased.

Wider implementation of these modifications should be considered, and a register of injuries kept by sporting bodies would be of benefit in monitoring such injuries.