Otherwise healthy children who have only one kidney should be allowed to play sports according to a new study. That's quite a bit different from traditional thought. Doctors have long suggested that youths with only one kidney avoid playing contact sports. The fear was that without a twin organ to take over, athletes who suffer kidney injuries could end up needing lifelong dialysis or transplants.
Researchers say that those concerns may be unfounded. After combing through a large database of sports-related injuries among varsity- level high school athletes, researchers found only 18 cases involving the kidney. That's about four kidney injuries per one million times an athlete hits the playing field.
"Even in the highest-risk group, kidney injury is a very rare condition," said Dr. Matthew Grinsell of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, whose results are published in the journalPediatrics.
"Especially with today's obesity epidemic, I am very, very reluctant to counsel somebody against physical activity," he told Reuters Health.
Data was gathered from the National Athletic Trainers' Association High School Injury Surveillance Study from 1995 to 1997.
When kidney injuries did occur, they were mostly bruises to the organ and none of them caused permanent damage. No surprise, the sport causing the most injuries was football, but even then, knee and head injuries were far more common. Statistics showed there were about 67 concussions for each kidney injury.
"We know that kidney injuries from traffic accidents are two to 10 times more common than kidney injuries from sports," Grinsell explained. "Some people have argued it might actually be more dangerous to drive to your doctor to talk about kidney injuries from sports than actually playing sports."
Still, for kids with only one kidney, he said it's important to make sure the organ works normally and that blood pressure is not too high before sending them onto the field.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also says it is okay for kids to play sports despite having just one kidney, but only after they have been seen by a doctor.
"If somebody has a passion, I really don't limit it," said Grinsell. "I push the more general safety issues, like wearing a helmet if you are a bicyclist."
If you have questions about your child playing contact sports, talk with your pediatrician or family doctor. He or she knows your child's specific health issues and can advise you accordingly.