Kidney Injuries and Teen Athletes: Should You Worry?

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Sports-related injuries are a serious concern for athletes and their parents. In the wake of highly publicized news coverage documenting concussions suffered by athletes in many sports—at all levels, from high school to professional—athletes and their loved ones are wondering what other risks they are taking when they step onto the field, court, or ring.

Dr. Matthew Grinsell, M.D., Ph.D., researched and reported on the frequency of kidney-related sports injuries. Published in, his study determined that sports-related kidney injuries are extremely rare. Reviewing a wide range of sports over a two-year period, he found only 18 kidney-related injuries—12 of which were reported by football players—out of a reported 4.4 million sports-related injuries. And of those 18 kidney-related injuries, none resulted in a loss of kidney function.

Although injuries to the kidneys are extremely uncommon, athletes born with only one kidney should continue to take heed when engaging in sports. No research has definitively linked contact sports to kidney damage; yet many physicians use a prophylactic approach by limiting the playing time of athletes with one kidney.

But according to a report published by Grinsell and his colleagues in the July issue of Pediatrics, the research "does not support limiting sport participation by athletes with single kidneys." Nevertheless, the authors suggest that concerned parents should follow certain guidelines to facilitate their child's healthy and safe approach to sporting engagements, without limiting their playing time.

Kidney injuries can be devastating, but no real data links sports-related contact as a cause.


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