As someone who promotes health, physician Matt Grinsell didn’t like the idea of telling patients to avoid playing sports like football or basketball.
But that is what many doctors suggest for the 1 in 1,500 children born with a single kidney. The fear is they could catastrophically damage the organ, leading them to need a transplant.
But while Grinsell was training in Virginia and saw a patient who was told he couldn’t play contact sports because of the risk to his kidney, Grinsell started to wonder why.
“It was a hunt to find out, is there any evidence that playing contact sports is dangerous to kidneys?” he said. “Telling someone they cannot be physically active – I do not like that as a medical recommendation.”
About eight years later, the nephrologist at Primary Children’s Medical Center and professor at the University of Utah has published a study that shows his hunch was right.
Kidney injuries are rare, according to a study being published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. And youths who have a normal single kidney shouldn’t be barred from sports.
“These patients should be allowed to participate as long as they are made aware of the risks,” Grinsell said, adding that he hopes doctors will “permit more patients to follow their passion and participate in the sports they enjoy.”
That’s important advice to parents like Sara Gensch, whose 5-year-old son has one functioning kidney. At first, she and her husband feared they might have to move from the mountain town of Wilson, Wyo., where they love to ski, hike, bike and swim.
But after Grinsell explained that the risk of kidney injury was low, the family decided to keep living an active life.
Wolfi learned to ski at 18 months old. He hikes, rides a bike and climbs jungle gyms.
By Heather May