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Sports Safety - Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates

In the United States, 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 non-contact 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 the latest available from the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Injury rates:

Picture of two young boys running
  • More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under 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 under 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 the ages of five 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 the most recent statistics from the SAFE KIDS Campaign:

  • basketball
    More than 200,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries.
  • baseball and softball
    Nearly 117,000 children ages five 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
    Nearly 275,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries.
  • football
    Almost 194,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries.
  • gymnastics
    Nearly 23,500 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for gymnastics related injuries.
  • ice skating
    Nearly 10,600 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ice skating-related injuries.
  • in-line and roller skating
    More than 38,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries.
  • skateboarding
    More than 61,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries.
  • sledding
    More than 15,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries.
  • snow skiing/snowboarding
    More than 29,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snow boarding and snow skiing-related injuries.
  • soccer
    About 75,000 children ages five to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.
  • trampolines
    Nearly 80,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries.
  • ice hockey
    According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, over 18,000 young people under the age of 18 were treated in Emergency Departments for ice hockey-related injuries in 2001-2002.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Safety & Injury Prevention

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