Golf-related head injuries in children increasing along with sport's popularity

Children's increasing interest in golf is resulting in an unfortunate upswing in golf-related head injuries, according to a review of sports injuries treated over six years at an academic medical center in Georgia.

A review of 2,546 patients under age 19 seen by pediatric neurosurgeons at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta between 1996 and 2002 revealed 64 sports-related injuries, 15 of which were golf-related, says Dr. Scott Y. Rahimi, neurosurgery resident and lead author on the study published in the March issue of Journal of Neurosurgery. Seventeen bicycle-related head injuries during that period barely beat out golf as the major cause of sports-related head injuries in these children.

Seven of the golf injuries were caused by golf cart accidents, seven by golf clubs and one by a golf ball, Dr. Rahimi says. Uncontrollable brain swelling resulted in the death of one child in a golf-cart accident and six of the 15 children needed surgery. Five of the six children who needed surgery did well and the remaining nine had excellent outcomes, he says. The youngest patient with a golf-related head injury was 10 months old.

The popularity of the sport (Augusta is home to the Masters Golf Tournament) and MCG's designation as an adult and pediatric trauma center likely account for the number of serious golf-related injuries treated at MCG, Dr. Rahimi says.

An occasional golfer himself, Dr. Rahimi got the idea for the study because he noticed an increase in these injuries. "At one time there were two children with golf-related injuries in the hospital," he says, although he suspected a review would find contact sports, such as football or basketball, as more common causes of childhood sports injuries.

"Golf-related injuries constitute a common type of sports injury in the pediatric population. The increase in frequency of these injuries is largely attributed to the increase in the popularity of golf and greater use of golf cart

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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