Sports injury statistics

How frequently do sports injuries occur?

In the United States, about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and about 3 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.

Injury statistics and incidence rates:

The following statistics are the latest available from the National Safe Kids Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Injury rates:

  • Approximately 3 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.
  • The majority 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- and bicycle-related injuries occur most often among young children, between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. Bicycle- and sports-related injuries also affect older children, in addition to overexertion.
  • The highest rates of injury occur in sports that involve contact and collisions.
  • More severe injuries occur during individual sports and recreational activities.
  • Most organized sports-related injuries (60 percent) occur during practice.

Who:

  • Almost 6 million high school children participate in team sports.
  • Children between 5 and 14 years of age account for almost half (40 percent) of sports-related injuries for all age groups.
  • Approximately 20 million children take part in recreational or competitive sports outside of school.
  • Approximately 20 percent of children participating in sports activities are injured each year, and one in four injuries is considered serious.
  • Children who are less developed than a more mature child of the same age and weight are at increased risk for injury.
  • Severity of sports-related injuries increases with age.
  • Before puberty, girls and boys suffer the same risk of sports injuries.
  • During puberty, boys suffer more severe injuries than girls.
  • Children who are just beginning a sport or activity are at greater risk for injury.

Types of sports and recreational activities:

Consider the following statistics:

  • Basketball - In 1998, nearly 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries. The majority of the injured children (70 percent) were boys.
  • Baseball and softball - In 1998, more than 91,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries, and nearly 26,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated for softball-related injuries.
  • Bicycling - In 1998, more than 320,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries. In addition, 225 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes in 1997.
  • Football - In 1998, more than 159,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries.
  • Gymnastics - In 1998, nearly 25,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for gymnastics-related injuries. Among girls' sports, gymnastics has one of the highest injury rates, increasing with the level of competition.
  • Ice skating - In 1998, more than 15,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ice skating-related injuries.
  • In-line skating/roller skating - Since 1992, 33 children ages 14 and under have died from in-line skating injuries, mostly from collisions with motor vehicles. In 1998, more than 67,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries while more than 32,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for roller-skating-related injuries.
  • Skateboarding - In 1998, more than 27,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries.
  • Sledding - In 1998, nearly 8,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries.
  • Snow skiing/snowboarding - In 1997, more than 13,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snow skiing-related injuries. Another 9,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snowboarding-related injuries.
  • Soccer - In 1998, more than 77,500 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.
  • Trampolines - In 1998, more than 75,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries. Most trampoline injuries occur at home (90 percent) and involve injury to a child's extremities.