Media releases

March 10, 2006

Play it safe this school year

The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott, today launched the results of new research by Medibank Private that shows one in five Australian school-aged children have suffered a sports injury in the last 12 months.

The 'ouch' factor doesn't end with the child's physical injury though; it often interrupts the entire family's life and hurts mums and dads as well - in the hip pocket.

The most expensive sports-related children's claims for Medibank Private in 2005 related to motorcycling ($10,704), horseback riding ($9,348), swimming ($9,120), cricket ($9,046), soccer ($6,537) and alpine skiing ($6,495).

Medibank Private's national claims database shows that children's sports injuries tend to occur to the elbow (29%), knee (28%), wrist (14%), head (13%), shoulder (6.5%) and ankle (4%).

The Federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott, urged Australian parents to ensure their children take part in sport and other physical activities safely.

"Getting our children active is a key element in our fight against childhood obesity, but we must ensure that this activity is done safely," Mr Abbott said.

"Sports and active recreation injuries in school-aged children is one of the highest causes of attendance at emergency departments for injury treatment.

"The next steps are often specialist treatment and rehabilitation, with potentially time off school and time off sports during recovery."

Medibank Private managing director, George Savvides, urged parents to protect their kids from injury by taking basic safety precautions.

"Injuries don't have to be part and parcel of kids being active.

"Research suggests that more than half of sports injuries suffered by children can be prevented with basic safety precautions.

"By taking simple pre-emptive measures, parents can avoid the trauma of watching their child in pain, as well as a potentially enormous medical bill running into the thousands of dollars," Mr Savvides said.

Chief executive of The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Doctor Antonio Penna, warned parents that kids are especially prone to sports injuries and must take necessary precautions.

"Children, especially those aged under eight, can be less coordinated and have slower reaction times than adults because they are still growing and developing.

"Children also mature at different rates. There's often a big difference in size between kids of the same age. And when kids of varying sizes play sports together, the chances of injury increase."

Tips for parents to encourage safe sports
Here are a few simple tips to help children avoid sports injuries this season.
� Ensure children are wearing appropriate protective gear.
� Mouth guards should be worn for all contact sports. A dentist can provide a professional fitting.
� Knee, elbow and wrist guards should be worn for all sports that include a risk of falling, such as rollerblading, skateboarding and riding scooters.
� Shin pads should be worn for such sports as hockey, softball and cricket where injuries to the front of the lower leg are common.
� Make sure your children thoroughly warm up and cool down.
� Make sure children are matched for sports according to their skill level, size and physical and emotional maturity.
� Make sure your child knows how to play the sport before putting him or her out on the field.
� Ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids during and after the game.

- ENDS -

For further information please contact:
Libby Woolonough
Medibank Private
T. (03) 8622 25181 or 0411 659 060

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