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Ask Doctor Donohoe - contact sports

Ask Doctor Donohoe

I’ve been in practice now for 15 years. Over all those years I’ve been asked to answer LOTS of questions. Neighbors Newspaper has graciously agreed to open up their publication to me and YOU! Starting this month we will be accepting questions on all subjects health related. As readers of my column already know, I specialize in pediatric and pre-natal chiropractic care. However, my office is a family practice. I take care of patients young, old and everyone in between. We invite your questions on health and fitness, diet and nutrition, kids care, adult care and any alternative medicine issue. Please email your questions to I will try to answer one or two every month in this column. This month I will discuss with a question I get a lot this time of year.

Question: Submitted by Janice D..
Are contact sports safe for young children (football, soccer, etc.)? I am worried about the long term effects of injuries over time.

Great question Janice! Yes, contact sports are safe for young children. Long term effects are not really the concern here. It’s the acute injuries seen on the field that are more of an issue and a concern for parents. There is always the possibility of a fluke accident that can cause a severe debilitating injury with any contact sport. But, that same possibility exists with many activities that our children participate in every day. Riding a bike, roller skating, or a bounce house at a birthday party all are activities that can potentially lead to severe injury.

Here are two statistics that you might find interesting:
• organized football among 5-15 year olds has 50% fewer injuries per capita than bicycle riding in the same age range.
• organized football among 5-15 year olds has 74% fewer injuries per capita than skateboarding in the same age group. (My own 11 year old son just broke his wrist skating 3 weeks ago!)

The Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York completed a Pop Warner injury survey in 1998. The study included data from over 5000 players from 8-15 years of age and weighing 50-150 pounds. The study revealed an overall rate of significant injury of 5%. 61% of those injuries were classified as moderate and 38.9% were classified as major injuries. No catastrophic injuries occurred and it was rare for a permanent disability to result from an injury.

The study’s authors said “the risk increases with level of play and player age.” Older players in the higher grades are more susceptible to football injuries. The risk of injury for an eighth grade player was 4 times greater than the risk of injury for a fourth grader. Contributing factors include increased size, strength, speed and aggressiveness. So, in actuality, contact sports are safer for the younger kids than the older ones due to their smaller size, lower strength and speed abilities and minimally aggressive behavior in these age ranges.

In my opinion, the benefits of participation in team sports outweigh the risk of severe injury every time. They train strength, stamina, courage, hard work, pride, heart and they teach commitment, teamwork and perseverance. All of these are traits we should want to see developed in our children.

I wrote an entire article on tackle football a few years back that can be found on my website, Look it up for even greater detail into the answer to this question.

Thanks again for the question Janice! Please send more questions in to and let’s keep this column rolling!

Dr. Donohoe is a family practice chiropractor who specializes in the unique needs of pregnant women and children. His office is located at 41880 Kalmia St., Suite 135 in Murrieta. He can be reached at 951-677-6500 or through his website at

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