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Wrist Fractures Show Alarming Rise Among Children

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Wrist fractures among kids and teens have risen dramatically during the past 30 years, a study reports today.

The findings raise the concern that kids today aren't building up enough bone, perhaps because they're drinking more soda pop and less milk, the researchers say. Weak bones could put children at risk of painful and costly fractures, they say.

''Fractures are no fun for kids,'' says Sherry Sherman of the National Institute on Aging, the federal agency that helped pay for the study. It appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Experts such as Sherman worry that these same kids might run a risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease of thinning bone that afflicts about 10 million elderly Americans.

For this study, Sundeep Khosla and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic kept track of the wrist fractures among a large sample of kids and young adults who lived around Rochester, Minn., from 1969 through 2001. The researchers combed through medical records and found 1,458 wrist fractures.

They found the incidence of fractures jumped by 42% during that 30-year period, a rise largely accounted for by the increase in the fracture rate for teens and kids, Khosla says.

The team found the highest fracture rates in girls ages 8 to 11 and boys ages 11 to 14 -- about a 60% jump. This research also found that the fracture rate associated with recreational activities nearly doubled. It cannot be determined whether kids today run a greater risk of fractures because they're skateboarding or rollerblading more.

This study wasn't designed to find the reason behind the increase in the fracture rates. But Khosla and other experts worry that the jump may be related to this fact: Thirty percent to 90% of kids and teens don't get the recommended three, four or more servings of dairy products or other calcium-rich foods a day.

Additional research must be done to see whether the Rochester study holds up for the nation as a whole.

But parents shouldn't wait for more studies if their children are not getting enough calcium: Kids must build up enough bone mass by age 20 or risk starting off in life with less than adequate bones.

So Sherman and others recommend that children and teens pack in the calcium in the form of low-fat dairy products like yogurt or milk or leafy green vegetables.

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