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School sporting injuries masked by lack of data

School sporting injuries masked by lack of data
February 15, 2012

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that five students died playing sport at NSW schools over the past decade while another 15 suffered spinal injuries, loss of mental capacity or other permanent impairments.

An article 'Extent of school sports injuries masked by lack of data' published yesterday, suggests that hundreds more school sports injuries go unchecked each year, triggering claims that poor surveillance is hampering efforts to make sports safer for players of all ages.

Writer Nicole Hasham suggests that "data compiled by the NSW Sporting Injuries Committee for the (Sydney Morning) Herald shows two student deaths relating to school sport last financial year, one involving rugby union and the other futsal.

"In the past decade, students have died after skiing, snowboarding and cross-country running. One became a paraplegic after a swimming accident and school rugby league players variously suffered loss of limb use, vision and mental capacity. One rugby union player became a quadriplegic and another suffered a ruptured spleen.

"Some incidents stemmed from existing conditions but an exact breakdown was not available. The records show 59 students have died or been permanently impaired while playing sport at NSW schools since 1984.

"However, the committee only deals with 'catastrophic' incidents leading to compensation. Many other school sports injuries each year are not centrally recorded.

"Neither the NSW Education Department nor the private school sector systematically monitor sports or other injuries, leaving individual schools to collect and manage reports.

"A leading sports physician and the Sydney Roosters' team doctor, John Orchard, said schools' ad hoc approaches reflected a shortfall in injury reporting in all sport settings, which obscures the public health burden and thwarts prevention efforts.

"A professor of injury research at Monash University, Caroline Finch, said while the benefits of sport are widely accepted to outweigh the risks, 90% of injuries could be avoided or minimised. A study in Victoria by Dr Finch showed that the number of sports injuries treated in hospital emergency departments had almost doubled since 2002, in contrast to a stabilised rate of road accident injuries.

"One million Australians are injured playing sport each year, costing taxpayers an estimated $1.65 billion. In New Zealand, a national registry linked to a compensation scheme has collated data on sport injuries for more than two decades.

"A spokesman for the Federal Sports Minister, Mark Arbib, said the government did not keep sports injury data, and that a national register 'may place an excessive burden and red tape' on sporting groups. (The spokesman) cited federal measures to prevent sports injuries, but did not say whether they had cut injury rates."

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