NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Obese kids' injury patterns look different from those of their slimmer peers, a new study out in Pediatrics shows.
Dr. Wendy J. Pomerantz of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, and her colleagues found obese children had more leg, ankle and foot injuries, but fewer injuries to the head and face, than normal-weight children.
While the researchers had no information on how the children in their study were injured, they speculate that heavier kids may be more vulnerable to getting hurt while walking or running, while thinner kids may be more prone to engage in activities and sports that carry a risk of head injury.
Research has already shown that obesity increases children's likelihood of getting hurt, and that heavy children take longer to recover from an injury, Pomerantz and her team write in their report. Injuries may also lead to more pain and disability among obese children than normal-weight kids, they add.
Obese adults have more sprains, strains and dislocations than normal weight adults, but fewer brain and internal organ injuries, the researchers note. To investigate whether injury patterns for obese and normal weight kids might also be different, they looked at records for all patients treated at their center's pediatric emergency room from January 2005 to March 2008.
Adequate information was available for more than 23,000 children 3 to 14 years old, about one in six of whom were obese.
The pattern of injuries to the upper extremities was similar for the obese and non-obese children. But lower extremity injuries were nearly twice as common for the obese children compared to the normal-weight kids - about 30 percent, compared to about 18 percent.
And obese children were about half as likely as normal weight children to sustain head or face injuries overall. About 10 percent of obese children suffered head injuries, for example, compared to more than 15 percent of normal weight children.
Sprains were more than twice as common among obese kids, while concussions and lacerations were significantly less frequent in the heavier children.
Pomerantz said she and her team are now trying to figure out the reasons for these differences so they can develop injury prevention strategies. For example, she explained, obese children may need different types of shoes and ankle supports when walking and running.
It's important to ease obese children into exercise gradually, she added, to help protect them from getting hurt.
"Everybody says that obesity's an epidemic, you should get the kids out there, eat right and exercise," she said. "The question is, how do you get them to exercise without them getting injured?"
SOURCE: Pediatrics, April 2010.
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