The incidence of sport-related kidney injuries among high school athletes was considered low compared with injuries to other organs and suggests that recommendations for children with one kidney to abstain from sport be re-evaluated, according to recent study results.
Researchers conducted a prospective study based on data compiled by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) High School Injury Surveillance Study during the 1995-1997 academic years. The observational cohort study quantified kidney injuries among varsity athletes and compared them with injuries to other organ systems. Data were collected from 246-NATA-certified athletic trainers at 240 US high schools.
More than 4.4 million athlete-exposures — one athlete participating in one game or practice — and 23,666 injuries were reported. They included 18 kidney injuries (15 contusions and three lacerations) occurring primarily in football (12 incidents; 9.2 injuries/million athlete-exposures). No injury diminished organ function or required surgery.
Other injuries reported:
- knee, 3,450
- head/neck/spine, 2,069
- mild traumatic brain, 1,219
- eye, 148
- testicle, 17
The researchers found that sport-specific rates of mild traumatic brain, head/neck/spine, and knee injuries for all sports, plus baseball- and basketball-specific eye injury rates, were greater than sport-specific rates of kidney injury (P<.01). As examples, the researchers found that knee injuries in girls’ basketball occurred nearly 300 times more often than kidney injuries (IRR=274.0; 95% CI, 42.0-5,266.5) and football players were more than 100 times as likely to sustain a head/neck/spine injury than a kidney injury (IRR=117.0; 95% CI, 64.8-216.5).
“The rate of significant injury to or loss of a kidney during participation in a number of high school varsity sports is low and appears to be lower than the rate of injury to other organs,” the researchers said. “These data do not support limiting sport participation by athletes with single kidneys. Reevaluation of the current guidelines and clarification of [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommendations is warranted to more accurately guide physicians, children, and families toward the healthiest and safest possible lives.”