Dangerous Games: College Athletes at Risk of Injury

Moorman says he believes proper training, in some cases, has not kept up with the influx of participants in college sports, which could lead to these injuries.

As for concussions, part of the apparent increase could be due to better detection methods for these injuries, compared to 16 years ago, Dick says.

But, citing soccer and basketball as two examples, Dick added, "There are a lot of sports that are not traditionally looked at as contact sports where the mechanism of injury is primarily player contact."

A Painful Passion

Part of the problem may also be the increasingly competitive mentality that has come to typify the pursuits of young athletes.

"The competitive level keeps getting higher and higher," Ingersoll said, adding that year-round training without seasonal breaks could lead to a rise in injuries due to overtraining without sufficient downtime.

"I don't know that these data reflect that phenomenon, and I'm very concerned about that," he said. "I think we're going to see some more overtraining injuries."

And injuries can have dire consequences for young athletes.

"A lot of people look at this stuff and say, 'no big deal.' But that's not true."

Ingersoll says in the U.S. every year, there are 400,000 ACL injuries.

Even with successful treatment, he says, the average time to early onset of osteoarthritis in these patients is seven years. If teenage and college-age athletes are getting these injuries now, he says, this means that they will likely begin to experience osteoarthritis as early as in their 20s.

"What are the chances they will be able to exercise and take care of themselves in their 40s, 50s and 60s in order to prevent diabetes, heart disease and other diseases?" he asked. "We're creating a whole generation of kids who might not be able to do this. We're starting to see the huge public health issue that this is."

Saving Young Athletes

But Dick said that, despite the fact that injuries are still an unfortunate reality in college sports, the newly released research will likely be an important tool that "will hopefully stimulate a new round of injury prevention measures."

Ingersoll agrees. "Generally, sports are safe, but we are developing the tools and ability to even further enhance health care in terms of what we provide athletes for preventing injury."

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