Participating in sports is a great way to stay active and healthy, but suffering a sports injury can take you out of the game. Some sports are especially dangerous and associated with high injury rates.
Sports are incredibly popular. The number of high school kids participating in high school sports reached an all-time high of 7,980,886 in 2017-18, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. There are more college students participating in the 24 NCAA sports than ever before too. While the record number of student athletes is encouraging, it also means that many children are at risk for sports injuries.
About 25 percent of all adults play sports, but they play a wide variety of sports. In a survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the adults reported engaging in more than 50 different types of sports that ranged from bowling and hockey to martial arts and fishing. The most popular sports among adults in that survey were golf, basketball, baseball or softball, soccer, and running or track.
Sports Injuries by the Numbers
The National Safety Council (NSC) maintains a database of sports and recreational injuries resulting in visits to the emergency department. In 2018, the NSC entered 7,804,940 sports injuries into this database.
At 498,498 injuries, exercise and the use of exercise equipment led to the most injuries among all the activities tracked by the NSC that year. Basketball scored the second highest number of injuries with 435,452, and bicycles and accessories were a close third.
In order of total injuries sustained, the sports included:
- Exercise, exercise equipment
- Bicycles and accessories
- Playground equipment
- ATVs, mopeds, minibikes
- Swimming pools, equipment
- Lacrosse, rugby, miscellaneous ball games
- Skating (excluding in-line skating)
The NSC breaks down the injuries according to gender, age group, and outcome. Men sustain more sports injuries every category except for skating and volleyball, for example.
Injuries for all sports and recreation activities are highest among people ages 5 to 14, and second highest among those in the 25 to 64 crowd. People aged 25 to 64 have the most injuries when it comes to exercise and exercise equipment, bicycling, fishing, riding ATVs, mopeds, and minibikes.
Football players who are between the ages of 5 and 14 have more injuries than do others who toss the pigskin. People of this age group are also more likely to get hurt on the playground, while playing soccer, rugby, lacrosse, baseball or softball, swimming, skating, bouncing on the trampoline,
Basketball players ages 15 to 24 have higher injury rates than do anyone else who plays hoops. Skateboarders and volleyball players in this age group suffer more injuries than do skaters and volleyball players in other age groups. Golf is the only sport in which players 65 and older sustain the most injuries.
The NSC categorizes the outcomes of sports injuries as either "treated and released" or "hospitalized or dead on arrival." Exercise and exercise equipment, bicycles and accessories, and ATVs, mopeds, and minibikes topped the list of injuries that ended in hospitalizations and deaths.
Types of Sports Injuries
The most common sports injuries are:
- Sprains – overstretching or tearing the ligament tissue that connects bones
- Strains – overstretching or tearing the muscle or the tendons that connect muscles to bones
- Knee injuries – ranging from overstretching to tearing of the muscles or tissues of the knee
- Swollen muscles – a natural reaction to injury
- Achilles tendon injuries – breaking or rupturing of the tendon at the back of the ankle
- Pain along the shinbone – also known as shin splints
- Rotator cuff injuries – a tear or other injury to the four pieces of muscle that work together to keep the shoulder moving in all directions
- Fractured bones – broken bones from collisions, falls or accidents, and stress fractures from engaging in repetitive movements; the most common broken bones include fractured hands, wrists, collarbones, and bones in the feet and ankles
Certain sports put players at higher risk of specific injuries. Basketball players most commonly experience injuries to their feet, ankles, and knees, for example, with sprained ankles, knee ligament tears, jammed fingers, and stress fractures of the feet. People using exercise equipment suffer injuries to their lower bodies most frequently, with sprains and strains accounting for most injuries. The most common football injuries include traumatic knee injuries, concussions, overuse injuries and heat injuries when high temperatures and humidity causes excessive sweating.
Diagnosis of Sports Injuries
Diagnosis of a sports injury includes performing physical examination to see how well the patient moves the injured joint or body part along with gathering details of how the injury occurred and the steps the patient has taken to address it. Depending on the findings, doctors may order imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
For more information on sports injuries and their diagnosis, consult with a doctor. An accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can speed healing and provide the best sports injury outcome possible.