Sports Injury Stats And Facts
Organized sports competitions have been commonplace since the days of the ancient Greeks. However, sports statistics and analytics are not as old as the sports themselves. They are both focused on tracking the achievements and overall performances of sports and teams, often to devise a better strategy for future competitions.
One statistical focus, though, is often overlooked by most professional sports analysts — sports injuries.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could have access to all relevant sports injury stats? We have worked hard to research, double-check, and compile sports injury stats, facts, and interesting results to help you out.
Which sports products are the most likely to cause injury? What body part is the most prone to injuries? What is the most common type of damage? Scroll down to find the answers to these questions and more!
Top 10 Sports Injuries Statistics
- There were over 2.3 million sports injuries in 2020
- The most injuries occur in the bicycles and accessories sports category — 425,910;
- The number of sports and recreational equipment-related injuries has decreased by 1,700,000 between 2013 to 2020;
- Athletes most commonly end up with an ankle injury (18.7%);
- Sprains, with a frequency of occurrence as high as 44%, are the most common sports injury;
- The main cause of sports injuries is the venue and equipment at a track and field event;
- The most common treatment of sports injury includes the suspension of exercise;
- Recreational athletes most often injure their upper extremities;
- Most sports injuries, 67.5% of them, occur during a usual practice;
- Fewer men and women athletes are getting injured with every passing year; and
- The most common official diagnosis of sports accidents are distortions, dislocations, or torn ligament(s).
General facts about sport injuries
Sports is a very dynamic field, and there are a number of factors at play, especially when it comes to sports injuries. We aren’t only considering how hard the athletes push themselves. The level of competition during the season, the average age of athletes, and the type of sport played all have an impact on the total number of sports injuries.
Also, not all injuries are the same. Athletes are more prone to certain types of injuries than others. If you want to find out more about general facts related to sports injuries, some very interesting insights can be found in the list below:
1. The majority of sports injuries (425,910 of them) are caused by bicycles and their accessories.
Did you know that in 2020 there were over 2 million sports injuries? Bicycling accounted for 425,910 of them. That’s more than any other sports and recreation category. In second place, we have exercise, a category that encompasses exercises both with and without equipment. There were 377,939 injuries in this sports category in 2020.
The ATV, moped, and minibike category comes in third with 229,974 injuries. Skateboards, scooters, and hoverboard use category is fourth with 217,656 injuries. The category with the lowest number of injuries is track and field activities with and without equipment with 10,071 injuries.
2. Most injuries occur in athletes between 25 and 64 years of age.
As we mentioned initially, not all age groups record the same number of injuries. Some age groups are more prone to injuries than others. Over 800,000 injuries are found in athletes between 25 and 64 years of age.
Athletes between 5 and 14 years of age record almost 800,000 injuries. The group that covers athletes between 14 and 24 years of age records just above 600,000 injuries within the same period.
3. When it comes to product related sports injuries, bicycles and their accessories are responsible for almost 426,000 injuries.
Injuries caused by cycling belong to the group of product-related sports injuries. Cycling is by far the most “dangerous” sport to be engaged in as an athlete. In 2020, there were almost 426,000 injuries among cyclists. Exercising with equipment is a close second with approximately 378,000 injuries.
Ranked third, we have ATV, moped, and minibike use in the category of sports and recreation with 230,000 injuries. Skateboard, scooter, and hoverboard use is in the fourth position with 218,000 injuries. The safest sports and recreation categories to be engaged in when it comes to avoiding product-related injury are Track and field activities, as there were only 10,000 injuries recorded during these activities.
4. The number of sports and recreation injuries treated by hospital emergency departments has been almost halved over the last 7 years.
The chances are good that many sports and recreation injuries end up being processed by hospital emergency departments. Nevertheless, most of these injured athletes get promptly released. The number of these injuries has been decreasing since 2013. Back in 2013, hospitals treated 4,111,000 such injuries, while in 2020, they treated only 2,458,000.
Meanwhile, the number of injured, hospitalized, and dead on arrival (DOA) athletes has been increasing. In 2013, there were 207,198 hospitalized, injured, and DOA athletes. Unfortunately, in 2020 there were 242,697 of these cases recorded.
5. The location of a sports injury correlates with the type of sport. For instance, table tennis players injure their upper limbs more frequently than any other athlete.
Athletes from different sports don’t suffer from the same injuries. In fact, the injured body part correlates with the type of sport the athlete is focusing on. Take swimming, for instance. The most commonly injured body part in this sport is the back. The upper and lower limbs are logically most commonly injured in ball games.
Take a close look at the table above. Research has uncovered that there are more than 60 people injured in ball games and all of the injuries are either upper or lower limb injuries. The most common injury for athletes in table tennis is upper limbs, while shoulders are more commonly injured in shuttlecock.
6. 52.1% of all athletes suffer a lower extremity injury.
While the location of an injury correlates with the sport that athletes are engaged in, the proportion of an injury also tells a story. For instance, the highest proportion of injured parts is in the lower extremities. As many as 52.1% of all athletes suffer an injury in this part of the body. More specifically, knees 21.8%, ankles 18.7%, thighs 5.2%, toes 4%, calf 1.2%, and Achilles tendon 1.2%.
The upper extremity injuries come second with a proportion of 38.6%. More specifically, wrists 11.90%, shoulders 10.7%, fingers 4%, and elbows 2%. With a proportion of 12.7%, injury of the trunk is ranked third. More specifically, the lower back is 11.1% and the upper back 1.6%. Finally, we have head and neck injuries with the proportions of 1.2% and 5.2%, respectively.
7. The most common type of damage in sports is a sprain, with a proportion of 44%.
The type of damage also makes sports injuries unique. The most common type of damage in sports is a sprain, with 44%. At a close second is a strain with a proportion of 31%. In third place, we have contusions with a proportion of 16%.
Bruises, fractures, cut wounds, and dislocations come fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh with proportions of 4.7%, 2%, 1.5%, 0.8%, respectively.
8. Different sports cause different types of injuries. For instance, basketball and football most commonly cause sprains and strains.
Some types of injuries are more indicative of some specific sports. Overall, the most common injuries include sprains, strains, and abrasions. However, not all athletes are exposed to the same risks. Take basketball and football, for instance. These two sports can easily cause athletes to experience strains and sprains.
Martial arts are most likely to cause bruises. Swimming and track and field will often cause abrasions and dislocations. Meanwhile table tennis and shuttlecock are most likely to cause a contusion.
9. The main cause of sports injuries is lack of preparation.
There can be many causes of sports injuries. However, research shows that the leading cause of injury is a lack of preparation. The main purpose of preparation is to promote blood circulation and increase heart rate, body temperature, and local blood flow. The lack of preparation as a cause of injury is most prominent in sports such as track and field, shuttlecock, and volleyball.
Poor physical fitness is the next common cause of sports injuries, followed by unfamiliar movements and overtraining.
10. The most common sports injury treatments include application of heat and ice compresses.
After a sports injury, athletes have a number of treatments available. However, the stats clearly show that the most common treatments include application of heat and ice compresses. Further examination shines a light on some interesting facts. For instance, different injuries require different treatment methods.
This variance is why some treatments are more frequent for athletes in one sport than treatments for athletes in another. Along with hot and cold, all sports share one other treatment in common - stop exercising. Massage is most common in treating basketball injuries, while football players are most likely to ignore an injury and continue to exercise.
11. Out of 2,720,000 sports and recreation activity injury visits to a healthcare professional in the US from 2010 to 2016, 920,000 were women, and 1,800,000 were men.
Over the course of 6 years (2010-2016), US records show that there were 2,720,000 sports and recreation activity injury visits to a healthcare professional. Male athletes almost doubled the number of female athletes. There were 1,800,000 men and 920,000 women.
Most of the injured athletes, 58,761 of them, were in the 10-14 age group, followed by the 15-19 age group, which amounted to 56,868 athletes. The biggest difference between sexes when it comes to sports-related injuries is in football (20.2% of overall injured athletes were men and 2.2% were women) and gymnastics and cheerleading (2.1% men and 11.8% women).
When it comes to the type of injuries, sex doesn’t make any significant difference except when it comes to lower extremity injuries. Overall, male lower extremity injuries amount to 27.8%, while in females it amounts to 35.5%.
12. 67.5% of injuries occur during regular practice sessions.
One might suspect that most sports injuries take place during regular competition when athletes want to push their limits to achieve success. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost 68% of all sports injuries occur during a usually scheduled practice.
Yes, athletes can become injured during a prematch practice or in the game itself, at odds of 15.5%, and 17.1%, respectively. However, the numbers combined don’t even reach half of the injuries that occur during the usual practice times.
13. The treatment and prevention of injuries has significantly increased.
Due to limited sports knowledge, the difference in our understanding of sports injuries between male and female athletes in the past was insignificant. However, current trends tell a different story.
It appears that the popularization of sports knowledge has positively impacted understanding of sports injuries. Our knowledge about the treatment and prevention of injuries has significantly increased, especially compared to previous years when tracking statistics first began.
14. The most common treatment given at sports and recreation activity emergency department visits in the US from 2010 to 2016 is cast, splint, or wrap (41.2%).
Not all visits of injured athletes to emergency departments across the US end with the same result. For 67% of injured athletes, doctors order X-rays, while 11.8% of them end with having a CT scan. The most common treatment provided is cast, splint, and wrap with a proportion of 41.2%, followed by suturing or staples and intravenous fluids, with proportions of 8.1% and 5.7%, respectively.
When it comes to medications given, 40.5% of examined injured athletes are prescribed a single medication, while 33.8% are prescribed more than one medication. In 63.9% of the cases, doctors prescribe analgesics (Opioids in 40% and Nonopiods in 60% of the cases).
15. According to a German national health survey, 60% of sports injuries are distortions, dislocations, and ruptures of ligaments.
A German national health survey finds that the relative distribution of sports injuries by type and location is uneven. The most common are distortions, dislocations, and ruptures of ligaments, with a proportion of 60% that are commonly found in upper arms, hands, knees, and ankles.
They are followed by contusion and open or superficial wounds with a proportion of 12%, fractures of the lower extremities 8%, fractures of the upper extremities 4%, intra-abdominal thoracic injury 4%, and hip fracture 1%.
16. According to a German national health survey, athletes that spend 4 hours exercising per week have the highest chance to become injured at 13.1%.
A German national health survey discovered that the risk of sports injury and the extent of sporting activity (time spent exercising) are correlated. The more time an athlete spends exercising, the higher the chance for them to suffer an injury. For instance, the highest chance of 13.1% applies to athletes who exercise at least 4 hours per week.
They are followed by athletes who exercise between 2 and 4 hours per week with a 7.6% chance of getting injured. Athletes who train between 1 and 2 hours per week have a 2.8% chance of getting injured, and those who train less than 1 hour per week have a 2.9% chance of suffering an injury.
17. While distortion, dislocation, and rupture of ligaments account for 60% of sports injuries, it’s not the same for domestic, occupational, road traffic, and pedestrian accidents.
All sports injuries can be sorted by type and frequency. 60% of sports injuries are distortion, dislocation, and rupture of ligaments, 18% are fractures, and 12% are open wounds, surface wounds, and contusions.
In all other types of accidents, open wounds, surface wounds, contusions, and fractures are more frequent than in sports accidents.
18. Age, BMI, weekly hours of practice, and using sports equipment in good condition are the most important factors that can predict sports injury duration, injury severity score, and injury rate.
There is a correlation between specific factors such as age, BMI, weekly hours of practice, and using sports equipment in good condition and sports injury duration (ID), injury severity score (ISS), and injury rate (IR). The table below shows that IS, ISS, and IR are higher in the 14- to 17-year-old group. Normal-weight athletes had significantly lower ID and ISS than overweight subjects when it comes to BMI.
Weekly hours of practice correlate with ID, ISS, and IR. Athletes who practiced less than 10 hours a week had significantly lower ID, ISS, and IR than athletes who practiced more than 10 hours a week. Athletes that used sports equipment in good condition that was frequently inspected had significantly lower ID, ISS, and IR than athletes who didn’t.
Additionally, the study established a few more connections. For instance, athletes who engaged in an individualized and sport-specific physical preparation had lower ID, ISS, and IR than those who didn’t. Athletes who performed specific activities with a goal to prevent injuries also had lower ID, ISS, and IR than those who didn’t. And, finally, athletes who performed warm-ups had significantly lower ID, ISS, and IR than those who didn’t.
A couple of factors didn’t exhibit any effect on ID, ISS, and IR, including sex, competitive level, diet, and being subjected to stress due to perceived pressure from coaches, team members, family, and friends.
Casualties and the average risk of death in different sports
When you first think about it, sports is not a hazardous industry. However, the truth is quite the opposite. Athletes die every year, and it happens across a variety of sports. Every sport comes with its own specific risks. Plus, not all activities result in the same number of casualties.
How many people die every year in sports? Which type of sport has the most casualties? If these are questions that intrigue you, scroll down to find the answers.
19. The number of avalanche fatalities among Heli-skiers in the US have gone up by 5x over the last 60 years.
Heli-skiers are exposed to a variety of alpine skiing risks. However, the one that causes the most fatalities appears to be the avalanche. Heli-skiing started out small in the 1950’s. The number of avalanche fatalities among Heli-skiers at the start was five on average. However, due to the popularization of the sport, the number of avalanche fatalities have significantly increased.
The first time that the numbers spiked was in the 1970’s. Records show that there were 15 casualties of avalanches at that time. Fast forward to the 2010’s only to see that the number of avalanche fatalities spikes at 35; for example in 2011 and 2013.
20. With 1 death in 2,314 jumps, base jumping has the highest average risk of death as a consequence of an activity.
Base jumping is the most dangerous activity to be involved in because every 1 in 2,314 jumps results in death. What about other activities, you may wonder? Kite surfing comes in second, with 1 death for every 16,666 hours of practice. Also, 1 in 18,750 dives with closed-circuit rebreathers results in death. Skydiving is relatively safe, with 1 death for every 101,000 jumps.
The safest activities include traveling via aircraft with 1 death in 125,000,000 journeys, canoeing with 1 death in 750,000 outings, and rock climbing with 1 death in 320,000 climbs.
21. The largest category of diving-related incidents is “boating and surface”. 48% of the cases were caused by problems with boat engines and lost divers in 33% of the cases.
In 2015, the most frequent diving category with 46 incidents on record is “Boating and Surface”. It's a broad category that encompasses engine failure and “out of fuel” situations which happens in 48% of the cases, and “lost diver” situations, which occurs in 33% of the cases.
Another category with a high number of incidents is DCI. These incidents are reported as diver illness through the RNLI. Next, we have Ascents and the indents that occur during abnormal ascent. There were also 9 diver fatalities recorded, which is the historically lowest number of fatalities on record.
22. Most of the diving-related incidents take place at a surface.
Diving-related incidents happen at a variety of depths. Interestingly enough, most of these incidents take place on the surface. That’s because most symptoms present themselves only once the diver is out of the water. There were almost 100 diving-related incidents recorded in 2015 that took place on the water surface.
Next, we have a range from 11 to 20 meters as a depth where the most incidents occur (over 40 incidents reported at this depth). After that, we have depth in the range of 1 to 10 meters and a depth of 21 to 30 meters with 30 and 20 incidents recorded, respectively.
23. It’s almost certain that a diving accident that occurs at depths of 60 meters or below will end in a fatality.
Diving-related accidents take place at various depths. However, the ratio of fatal and non-fatal diving incidents varies at different depths. For instance, it’s almost certain that a diving accident at depths of 60 meters or below will end in a fatality. Additionally, they are more commonly fatal than accidents at the depth ranges of 41 to 50 and 51 and 60 meters.
There are more non-fatal than fatal diving-related accidents at depths 1 to 10, 11 to 20, 21 to 30, and 31 to 40 meters.
24. Most of the cycling-related incidents that result in severe bicycling trauma take place during the summer season.
The chances that both street and mountain bikers will suffer severe bicycling trauma are significantly higher during the summer months than any other season. More than half of the recorded severe bicycling trauma cases were recorded from June 21st to September 22.
Mountain bikers are more likely to suffer an incident over a weekend, while street cyclists are often injured during weekdays. Most of the accidents take place during the morning and afternoon (8 am to 4 pm).
25. In 2019, there were almost 17,000 cyclists injured. As many as 4,449 of them were killed or seriously injured in reported road accidents.
Overall in 2019 there were 16,788 cyclist casualties, including 100 fatal accidents with 90 adult and 10 children fatalities.
Those that were lucky enough to end up slightly injured include 1,522 children and 10,557 adults. There were 462 children and 3,827 adults seriously injured in road accidents.
Sports encompass a variety of outdoor and indoor activities. Unfortunately, sports injuries are an inescapable part of sports. As you can see, they occur across different sports, there are various types of injuries, and the great majority of them don’t require extensive and lengthy medical treatment. Fortunately, there are some factors that can help to predict injuries. Knowing these factors can help you to prevent injuries to yourself and your loved ones.
Hopefully, you will find some of these stats informative and useful if you are here to choose the safest activity for yourself, a friend, or a family member.