When you were in school, you probably remember some classmates wearing plaster casts, usually the result of a sports injury. But your kids probably won’t.

Today, fewer children break their bones, and those who do are injured in ways that were less common before the pandemic. Another change after COVID-19.

What has changed?

Researchers at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital (CHOP) analyzed the hospital’s pediatric admissions to determine what types of changes COVID-19 has caused. They found unusual trends in children who arrived with broken bones.

On an average day in 2019, around 22 children with broken bones came to CHOP. The number for 2020 is closer to nine – less than half of a year ago. The mean age of these patients has also decreased from 9.4 years to 7.5 years.

Why?

COVID-19 burned the year 2020 indelibly. The pandemic has shattered normal life and kept both parents and children away from their normal routines.

In a presentation at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics virtual conference, CHOP researchers concluded that the significant decrease was due to the fact that fewer children were involved in organized sports or frolic in their local playground.

In normal years, exercise is a leading cause of injury in children. Stanford Childrens’ Health in California reports that exercise sends over 775,000 children to the US emergency room each year

COVID-19 has almost brought organized sport to a standstill. Children spend much more time at home or doing individual exercises and changing where and how they get hurt. For example, the percentage of self-inflicted fractures has increased by over 25%.

Today, according to the CHOP researchers, trampolines and bicycles are the biggest culprits. While both are common causes of a significant proportion of the injuries in children, the shift was greater than expected.

Between March and April 2020, 18.3% of injuries were due to bicycle accidents. In the same months of the two previous years, this percentage was only 8.2%.

“With the rate of bicycle injuries rising, an emphasis on basic safety precautions could improve public health,” they write.

The take away

Removing sports from the equation has reduced injuries, but staying home isn’t entirely safe either. The key to avoiding injury is making sure your children are well supervised and teaching them to play and exercise safely.

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