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Focus on Orthopedics and Sports Medicine: Motocross May Not be Appropriate Sport for Everyone

Motocross is a popular sport involving racers on motorized bikes traveling over rough natural or simulated terrain at high rates of speed. A new review article published in the March 1, 2018, issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) identifies the most common motocross injuries associated with this vigorous sport and offers input on prevention techniques.

The most common motocross-related injuries often affect the bones and joints, and many of those injuries require surgery. The review article highlights a study that looked at motocross- related accidents in pediatric/adolescent patients from about 5 to 18 years of age. Findings showed that:

• 249 patients required 299 treatment episodes during a period of 7 years.

• 95 percent of the injuries were musculoskeletal.

• The most common injuries were to the:

Forearm (15.4 percent)

Collarbone (10 percent)

Femur or thighbone (9.7 percent)

Proximal tibia, the upper portion of the bone, closest to the knee (10 percent).

“Motocross is growing in popularity around the country,” said Amy McIntosh, MD, lead author of the review article and orthopaedic surgeon at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, Texas. “When weighing the benefits of the sport for adolescents, parents should be aware of the potential risk of severe injury, and factor in the missed academic time and cost of medical treatment.”

Another study reports that 48 percent of youth riders participating in one 4-month season experienced at least one episode with symptoms of a concussion; 78 percent of those riders sought medical attention, and their mean time away from motocross competition was 2.7 weeks. However, 24 percent of symptomatic riders continued to compete until the season’s end.

“Recognizing a concussion is essential to timely treatment,” said Dr. McIntosh. “Parents and coaches should be aware of concussion symptoms, and riders should avoid racing while experiencing these symptoms to prevent further injuries. After recovering from a concussion, riders should participate in supervised, progressive return-to-ride programs before returning to competitive racing.”

With the increase in severe and fatal injuries to children who ride two-wheeled motorized vehicles, authors of the review article recommend the following injury prevention precautions for those who choose to participate:

• Age-appropriate training and constant adult supervision

• Use of protective equipment, such as shatterproof goggles, helmets, and padding

• Proper maintenance of the motorbike

• Attention to environmental factors

The authors conclude that motocross “may not be an appropriate sport for all participants” and that the physical and emotional skills required for this taxing sport seem to exclude most children from participating safely. Before embarking on competitive motocross participation, one needs to assess one’s physical development, strength, coordination, emotional maturity, and judgment.

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