OBJECTIVES. Physician opinions and practice patterns regarding the participation of children and adolescents with single, normal kidneys in contact/collision sports are widely varied. We hypothesize that limitation of participation from play based only on the presence of a single kidney is not supported by available data. We sought to determine recommendations of pediatric nephrologists regarding the participation of patients with single, normal kidneys in contact/collision sports and review the literature to determine the rate of sports-related kidney injury compared with other organs.

METHODS. Members of the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology were surveyed regarding their recommendations for participation of patients with single, normal kidneys in contact/collision sports. Medical and sports literature databases were searched to determine sports-related kidney, brain, spinal cord, and cardiac injury rates and the sports associated with kidney injury.

RESULTS. Sixty-two percent of respondents would not allow contact/collision sports participation. Eighty-six percent of respondents barred participation in American football, whereas only 5% barred cycling. Most cited traumatic loss of function as the reason for discouraging participation. The literature search found an incidence of catastrophic sports-related kidney injury of 0.4 per 1 million children per year from all sports. Cycling was the most common cause of sports-related kidney injury causing >3 times the kidney injuries as football. American football alone accounted for 0.9 to 5.3 fatal brain injuries and 4.9 to 7.3 irreversible spinal cord injuries per 1 million players per year. Commotio cordis causes 2.1 to 9.2 deaths per year.

CONCLUSIONS. Most pediatric nephrologists prohibit contact/collision sports participation by athletes with a single kidney, particularly football. The available evidence suggests that cycling is far more likely to cause kidney injury. In addition, kidney injury from sports is much less common than catastrophic brain, spinal cord, or cardiac injury. Restricting participation of patients with a single, normal kidney from contact/collision sports is unwarranted.

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