Sleep key to keeping teenage athletes injury-free

Adolescent athletes who slept eight or more hours each night were more than two-thirds less likely to be injured than athletes who regularly slept less, according to a new study.

The abstract Lack of Sleep is Associated with Increased Risk of Injury in Adolescent Athletes, was presented at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

Researchers asked school athletes aged 12 to 18 to answer a range of questions including how much sleep they got on average each night and then reviewed those students’ school records pertaining to reported athletic injuries.

Hours of sleep per night was significantly associated with a decreased likelihood of injury, according to the study results. In addition, the higher the age level of the athlete, the greater the likelihood of injury – 2.3 times greater for each additional year.

Gender, weeks of participating in sports per year, hours of participation per week, number of sports, strength training, private coaching and subjective assessments of “having fun in sports” were not significantly associated with injury.

“While other studies have shown that lack of sleep can affect cognitive skills and fine motor skills, nobody has really looked at this subject in terms of the adolescent athletic population,” said study author Matthew Milewski, MD.

“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.”

The advanced age risk may reflect a cumulative risk for injury after playing three or four years at secondary school level, Milewski said and older athletes are generally bigger, faster and stronger.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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