Teens, want to reduce your risk for athletic injury? Try getting more Zzz’s

Published on 
October 25, 2014

Earlier this week, we were “schooled” on the impacts of sleep deprivation in teenagers. From decreasing memory and concentration to influencing behavior (moody teens and cranky mornings don’t mix), getting less than the 9-10 hours of recommended shut-eye can greatly impact quality of life.

But beyond academic performance and social skills, researchers also found that a chronic lack of sleep can influence the risk for injury in adolescent athletes. David Skaggs, MD, Chief of the Children’s Orthopaedic Center at CHLA and author on this sleep deprivation study, comments on the results.

Dr. Skaggs, what sort of risk does sleep deprivation pose to young athletes?

In terms of injury risk, we found that the athletes who reported less than 8 hours of sleep per night had a 70% increased risk for an athletic injury.

Does this risk change for athletes who sleep 6 hours versus those who sleep 7?

Yes. We found that the less sleep athletes reported, the more likely they were to sustain an injury; there was no cut-off point.

What were the most common injuries?

Injuries to the hand, wrist and knee were the three most common.

Sleep in athletes is a bit of a “Catch-22,” since late-night and early-morning athletic practices are often what prevent teens from getting a full night’s rest. Do you have suggestions on how to remedy this?

The fact that decreased sleep leads to more injuries shifts the cost-benefit analysis of holding practices that cut into sleep time. By having a late-night or early-morning practice, there is likely an increased risk of injuries, which ultimately may hurt a team’s performance. Hopefully, this can encourage coaches to hold practices at times that allow for a good night’s sleep.

As a side-note, having dinner with family has been shown to be associated with increases in a child’s overall performance and happiness. This is also a consideration for those coaches contemplating evening practices.