Sleepy Teen Athletes May Have Higher Injury Risk

Tired teens may be putting themselves at risk for injury when they play sports, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and the Institute for Scholastic Sport Science and Medicine found that teens who got at least eight hours of sleep a night or more had a lower risk of getting injured while playing sports than their sleepier counterparts.

The study included 160 student athletes with an average age of 15 (about half were boys, half were girls) who attended Harvard-Westlake School in California. Of those students, 112 participated in the questionnaire, which included questions about how many hours of sleep they got a night, how committed they were to athletics, whether strength training was part of their regimens, whether they liked playing sports and how many sports they played.

Researchers found that the teen athletes who got at least eight hours of sleep had a 68 percent lower risk of injury than those who got fewer hours. And the higher the grade of the student, the more likely he or she would suffer an injury -- with each advancing grade, injury risk went up by 2.3 times.

"When we started this study, we thought the amount of sports played, year-round play, and increased specialization in sports would be much more important for injury risk," study researcher Dr. Matthew Milewski, M.D., said in a statement. But "what we found is that the two most important facts were hours of sleep and grade in school."

The findings were presented at the national meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, its findings should be regarded as preliminary.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens get more than nine hours of sleep per night (though some may only need closer to eight-and-a-half).

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