From grade school to high school, millions of children and teenagers play sports and engage in other competitive activities. And each year millions of them are treated for sports-related injuries. For the most part, the injuries are sprains and strains, like twisted ankles and over-extended knees. However, sometimes the injuries are much more serious. For example, Patty Phommanyvong, a high school cheerleader, suffered injuries that have left her confined to be nursing home bed.

Of course, the health issue is most important. As a parent, the first question you have is, “Is my child OK?” You want and need to make sure that your child gets the best medical care possible, and in the best case scenario, is able to resume play and normal life activities. But when it comes to sports injuries, the second question almost has to be, “Who pays the bills?”

Injuries and Statistics

Patty Phommanyvong was performing a cheerleading stunt at a high school football game when she was hurt. As part of the stunt, she was thrown into the air and caught by other cheerleaders. But, almost immediately after she came down, she went limp. Her heart stopped beating, and she suffered severe brain damage.

No one knows what happened exactly, but doctors think that she may have been hit in the chest as she came down. Patty’s now a quadriplegic. She’s confined to bed in a nursing home. She can’t eat or speak; she communicates by blinking her eyes.

It can’t be said that sports- and competition-related injuries like Patty’s are “common.” In fact they’re quite rare, considering how many kids are playing sports. The number of injuries is a bit frightening, though.

According to the latest statistics gathered by Safe Kids USA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

  • Each year, more than 3.5 million children ages 14 years and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries. More than 30 million children participate in sports each year
  • 62% of organized sports-related injuries happen during practice rather than during games
  • Collision and contact sports, like football and rugby, have higher injury rates, but injuries from individual sports, such as gymnastics and swimming, are usually more severe
  • About 33% of parents don’t take the same safety precautions during their child’s practice as they do for a game, and there are statistics showing that schools and coaches take practices less seriously than games when it comes to injuries

Paying the Bills

Generally, if you have health and medical insurance, your child’s care and treatment is covered. However, with the costs of health insurance on the rise constantly, deductibles you may have to pay, and perhaps limited or no coverage for some treatments and “out-of-network” professionals, you still may feel a financial strain. Patty Phommanyvong’s family is in that situation. Insurance is helping, but they’re still “struggling,” her father reports.

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