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Sports Safety - Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates

In the U.S., about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and more than 3.5 million injuries each year, which cause some loss of time of participation, are experienced by the participants. Almost one-third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports-related injuries. By far, the most common injuries are sprains and strains.

Obviously, some sports are more dangerous than others. For example, contact sports such as football can be expected to result in a higher number of injuries than a noncontact sport such as swimming. However, all types of sports have a potential for injury, whether from the trauma of contact with other players or from overuse or misuse of a body part.

The following statistics are from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Injury rates:

Picture of two young boys running
  • More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and younger get hurt annually playing sports or participating in recreational activities.
  • Although death from a sports injury is rare, the leading cause of death from a sports-related injury is a brain injury.
  • Sports and recreational activities contribute to approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children.
  • Almost 50 percent of head injuries sustained in sports or recreational activities occur during bicycling, skateboarding, or skating incidents.
  • More than 775,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries each year. Most of the injuries occurred as a result of falls, being struck by an object, collisions, and overexertion during unorganized or informal sports activities.

Where and when:

  • Playground, sports, and bicycle-related injuries occur most often among young children, between ages 5 and 14 years old.
  • The highest rates of injury occur in sports that involve contact and collisions.
  • More severe injuries occur in individual sports and recreational activities.
  • Most organized sports-related injuries (62 percent) occur during practice.

Types of sports and recreational activities:

Consider these estimated injury statistics for 2009 from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Basketball
    More than 170,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries.
  • Baseball and softball
    Nearly 110,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries. Baseball also has the highest fatality rate among sports for children ages 5 to 14, with three to four children dying from baseball injuries each year.
  • Bicycling
    More than 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries.
  • Football
    Almost 215,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries, with nearly 10,000 of those hospitalized as a result of their injuries.
  • Ice hockey
    More than 20,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ice hockey-related injuries.
  • In-line and roller skating
    More than 47,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries.
  • Skateboarding
    More than 66,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries, with more than 4,500 children hospitalized as a result of their injuries.
  • Sledding/toboggan
    More than 16,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries.
  • Snow skiing/snowboarding
    More than 25,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snow boarding and snow skiing-related injuries.
  • Soccer
    About 88,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.
  • Trampolines
    About 65,000 children ages 14 and younger were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries.

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