Facts + Statistics: Sports injuries

 
Sports injuries

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2019 exercise, with or without exercise equipment, accounted for about 468,000 injuries, the most of any category of sports and recreation. Bicycling followed with about 417,000 injuries, while basketball with 404,000 injuries, and football, with 292,000 injuries, ranked third and fourth.

Concern is growing about the risks of sports-related concussions as lawsuits filed by injured professional football players have generated national headlines. The problem also affects thousands of young people who engage in a variety of sports. According to the NSC, being struck by another person or object is the leading cause of unintentional injury for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Sports-related concussions are a significant factor. The Brain Injury Research Institute estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million athletes annually suffer concussion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2016, an estimated 273,272 children (age 17 or younger) were treated in U.S. emergency departments (EDs) for nonfatal traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) related to sports and recreation. The 2016 number is down 9.8 percent from a peak of 302,966 in 2012, possibly due to prevention efforts, changes in participation and changes in how care is sought for injured children. In the years from 2010 to 2016, the CDC reports that TBIs that occurred in contact sports accounted for approximately 45 percent of all sports and recreation-related TBI ED visits. Activities associated with the highest number of ED visits were football, bicycling, basketball, playground activities and soccer.

The NSC reports that there were about 191,000 swimming injuries treated in EDs in 2019, with children between the ages of five and 14 suffering about half of all injuries. A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that between 2017 and 2019, 76 percent of children treated in EDs for pool related nonfatal drowning injuries were younger than five years of age.

 
Sports Injuries By Number Of Injuries, 2019

 

    Number of injuries by age
Sport, activity or equipment Injuries (1) Younger than 5 5 to 14 15 to 24 25 to 64 65 and older
Exercise, exercise equipment 468,315 6,266 46,926 87,189 250,747 77,187
Bicycles and accessories 417,485 12,691 113,445 58,072 191,049 42,228
Basketball 403,980 1,250 139,733 185,316 76,066 1,615
Football 292,306 429 149,149 116,946 25,131 651
Playground equipment 222,527 54,372 148,577 7,256 10,376 1,946
ATV's, mopeds, minibikes, etc. 201,847 4,407 37,831 51,686 89,833 18,090
Swimming, pools, equipment 190,743 21,811 77,296 31,309 47,457 12,871
Soccer 188,336 2,060 84,938 71,030 29,569 739
Baseball, softball 157,164 2,380 65,058 48,188 38,211 3,327
Skateboards 148,921 2,837 46,071 51,864 44,891 3,257
Trampolines 123,029 23,979 74,378 12,711 11,625 336
Lacrosse, rugby, misc. ball games 74,326 163 28,310 22,613 13,371 9,869
Skating (excl. In-line) 67,008 833 31,293 12,980 20,611 1,291
Fishing 61,932 1,926 11,987 9,542 31,028 7,449
Volleyball 51,455 32 18,479 22,652 9,674 618
Horseback riding 43,469 963 8,200 9,650 20,563 4,093
Hockey 36,885 200 12,268 14,951 9,060 407
Track and field activities, equipment 28,048 0 11,287 12,274 4,189 298
Martial arts 27,008 288 7,720 6,868 11,583 549
Racquet sports 25,844 250 3,408 4,091 9,229 8,867
Beach, picnic, camping equipment 25,728 2,803 4,391 2,526 11,797 4,212
Water skiing, tubing, surfing 18,143 98 2,186 5,932 9,389 538
Bowling 16,615 938 1,293 2,478 7,762 4,145
Boxing 16,071 23 2,001 7,000 6,976 71
Nonpowder guns, BB'S, pellets 11,995 369 3,583 4,052 3,460 530
Toboggans, sleds, snow discs, etc. 10,661 942 4,950 1,255 3,398 115

(1) Treated in hospital emergency departments.

Source: National Safety Council analysis of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission NEISS data. National Safety Council. Injury Facts®.

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School sports

Young people aged 5 to 14 accounted for 50 percent of the football injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2017, according to data from the National Safety Council. This age group accounted for 45 percent of soccer injuries, 44 percent of baseball and 40 percent of lacrosse and rugby injuries treated in emergency rooms the same year. (see chart, Sports Injuries By Number Of Injuries).

 
Winter sports

In 2017 almost 14,000 individuals were injured while using toboggans, sleds and snow discs and required treatment in emergency rooms, according to the National Safety Council. According to a National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Fact Sheet, during the 10 years ending in 2017, 38 people died skiing or snowboarding per year on average. During the 2017-2018 season, 37 fatalities occurred out of the 53.3 million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season, down 19 percent from 44 fatalities in the 2016-2017 season. The fatality rate was less than one fatality (0.69 fatalities) per one million skier visits. Twenty-eight of the 2017/2018 season fatalities were skiers and 9 of the fatalities were snowboarders.

 
Bicycle crashes

Bicyclist fatalities had been declining steadily since 1975, and fell to a record low of 623 in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts. The data show that pedalcyclist fatalities averaged about 2 percent of total traffic fatalities from 1975 to 2018.   Following the 2010 low, pedalcyclist (bicyclists and other cyclists including riders of two-wheeled, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles) fatalities soared 38 percent to 857 in 2018.

In 2018, according to the National Safety Council, 424,350 people were treated for injuries in hospital emergency departments sustained while riding bicycles. The number of people who biked to work peaked at about 904,000 commuters in 2014 but fell to about 806,000 in 2019, according to the League of American Bicyclists data sourced from the  U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

The average age of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes was 47 years old in 2018, up from 41 in 2009, according to NHTSA. States with the highest pedalcyclist fatalities were Florida (161), California (155) and Texas (69). When ranked by fatality rates per million population, Florida ranked first with 7.56 fatalities per million, followed by Louisiana (6.22). In cities with over 500,000 residents, Sacramento, CA had the highest pedalcyclist fatality rate, at 15.73 per million people, followed by Albuquerque, NM with 12.50 fatalities.

Having the right bike helmet can significantly cut the risk of injury. A ratings program, based on research by Virginia Tech and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), provides a standardized rating that determines the effectiveness of a bike helmet. The program uses more rigorous tests than required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), taking into account the angle at which a bicyclist’s head is likely to strike the pavement in a crash. The number of stars assigned to each helmet represents how effectively that model reduces overall injury risk. Only four of the 30 helmets tested in the initial round in 2018 earned a 5-star rating. All four are equipped with a Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) that creates a low-friction layer inside the helmet which helps to reduce rotational forces that can result from certain impacts.

With better ways to gauge helmet safety, there still remains the problem of getting people to wear them. By some estimates only 18 percent of riders regularly wear helmets.

The FBI reports that 125,136 bicycles were stolen in 2019, down 2.9 percent from 2018. The average value of a stolen bicycle was $569 in 2019.

 
Total Motor Vehicle and Pedalcyclist Fatalities, 2009-2018 (1)

 

  Fatalities  
Year Total Pedalcyclist Pedalcyclist as
a percent of
total fatalities
2009 33,883 628 1.9%
2010 32,999 623 1.9
2011 32,479 682 2.1
2012 33,782 734 2.2
2013 32,893 749 2.3
2014 32,744 729 2.2
2015 35,484 829 2.3
2016 37,806 853 2.3
2017 37,473 806 2.2
2018 36,560 857 2.3

(1) Pedalcyclists are defined by the National Highway Safety Administration as bicyclists and othe cyclists including riders of two-wheeled, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles.

Source: National Highway Traffic Administration.

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Pedalcyclists Killed And Fatality Rates By Age, 2018 (1)

 

Age group Killed Population
(000)
Fatality rate
per million
population
Under 5 5 19,810 0.25
5 to 9 13 20,196 0.64
10 to 14 19 20,880 0.91
Children (14 and under) 37 60,886 0.61
15 to 19 53 21,097 2.51
20 to 24 50 21,874 2.29
25 to 29 40 23,562 1.7
30 to 34 59 22,136 2.67
35 to 39 45 21,564 2.09
40 to 44 66 19,714 3.35
45 to 49 66 20,747 3.18
50 to 54 96 20,885 4.6
55 to 59 100 21,941 4.56
60-64 84 20,332 4.13
65-69 46 17,087 2.69
70 to 74 47 13,405 3.51
75 to 79 28 9,267 3.02
80 and over 20 12,672 1.58
Seniors (65 and over) 141 52,431 2.69
Total (2) 857 327,167 2.62

(1) Pedalcyclists are defined by the National Highway Safety Administration as bicyclists and othe cyclists including riders of two-wheeled, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles.
(2) Includes pedalcyclists of unknown age.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Bureau of the Census.

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Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities, Pedalcyclist Fatalities, And Fatality Rates By State, 2018 (1)

 

      Pedalcyclists
State Resident population
(000)
Total traffic
fatalities
Fatalities Percent of total
traffic fatalities
Fatalities per
million population
 Alabama  4,888 953 9 0.9% 1.84
 Alaska  737 80 0 (2) (3)
 Arizona  7,172 1,010 23 2.3 3.21
 Arkansas  3,014 516 3 0.6 1.00
 California  39,557 3,563 155 4.4 3.92
 Colorado  5,696 632 22 3.5 3.86
 Connecticut  3,573 294 1 0.3 0.28
 Delaware  967 111 6 5.4 6.20
 District of Columbia  702 31 3 9.7 4.27
 Florida  21,299 3,133 161 5.1 7.56
 Georgia  10,519 1,504 30 2.0 2.85
 Hawaii  1,420 117 2 1.7 1.41
 Idaho  1,754 231 2 0.9 1.14
 Illinois  12,741 1,031 24 2.3 1.88
 Indiana  6,692 858 22 2.6 3.29
 Iowa  3,156 318 7 2.2 2.22
 Kansas  2,912 404 5 1.2 1.72
 Kentucky  4,468 724 10 1.4 2.24
 Louisiana  4,660 768 29 3.8 6.22
 Maine  1,338 137 2 1.5 1.49
 Maryland  6,043 501 5 1.0 0.83
 Massachusetts  6,902 360 4 1.1 0.58
 Michigan  9,996 974 21 2.2 2.10
 Minnesota  5,611 381 7 1.8 1.25
 Mississippi  2,987 664 6 0.9 2.01
 Missouri  6,126 921 2 0.2 0.33
 Montana  1,062 182 2 1.1 1.88
 Nebraska  1,929 230 0 (2) (3)
 Nevada  3,034 330 8 2.4 2.64
 New Hampshire  1,356 147 2 1.4 1.47
 New Jersey  8,909 564 18 3.2 2.02
 New Mexico  2,095 391 11 2.8 5.25
 New York  19,542 943 29 3.1 1.48
 North Carolina  10,384 1,437 18 1.3 1.73
 North Dakota  760 105 2 1.9 2.63
 Ohio  11,689 1,068 22 2.1 1.88
 Oklahoma  3,943 655 16 2.4 4.06
 Oregon  4,191 506 9 1.8 2.15
 Pennsylvania  12,807 1,190 18 1.5 1.41
 Rhode Island  1,057 59 1 1.7 0.95
 South Carolina  5,084 1,037 23 2.2 4.52
 South Dakota  882 130 0 (2) (3)
 Tennessee  6,770 1,041 8 0.8 1.18
 Texas  28,702 3,642 69 1.9 2.40
 Utah  3,161 260 3 1.2 0.95
 Vermont  626 68 0 (2) (3)
 Virginia  8,518 820 12 1.5 1.41
 Washington  7,536 546 16 2.9 2.12
 West Virginia  1,806 294 5 1.7 2.77
 Wisconsin  5,814 588 4 0.7 0.69
 Wyoming  578 111 0 (2) (3)
 U.S. Total  327,167 36,560 857 2.3 2.62

(1) Bicyclists are defined by the National Highway Safety Administration as pedalcyclists, which are bicyclists and othe cyclists including riders of two-wheeled, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles.
(2) Less than 0.1 percent.
(3) Less than 0.01 per million population.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, National Highway Safety Administration.

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Total Traffic Fatalities And Pedalcyclist Traffic Fatalities And Fatality Rates By City, 2018 (1)

 

      Pedalcyclists Fatality rate per million population
City (2) Resident
population
Total traffic
fatalities
Fatalities As a percent of
total traffic
fatalities
Total Pedalcyclist Pedalcyclist
rank (3)
New York, NY 8,398,748 195 9 4.6% 23.22 1.07 27
Los Angeles, CA 3,990,456 273 20 7.3 68.41 5.01 7
Chicago, IL 2,705,994 131 6 4.6 48.41 2.22 23
Houston, TX 2,325,502 204 8 3.9 87.72 3.44 13
Phoenix, AZ 1,660,272 245 2 0.8 147.57 1.20 25
Philadelphia, PA 1,584,138 102 4 3.9 64.39 2.53 22
San Antonio, TX 1,532,233 148 4 2.7 96.59 2.61 21
San Diego, CA 1,425,976 95 1 1.1 66.62 0.70 29
Dallas, TX 1,345,047 198 6 3.0 147.21 4.46 10
San Jose, CA 1,030,119 60 5 8.3 58.25 4.85 8
Austin, TX 964,254 71 1 1.4 73.63 1.04 28
Jacksonville, FL 903,889 136 9 6.6 150.46 9.96 3
Fort Worth, TX 895,008 102 1 1.0 113.97 1.12 26
Columbus, OH 892,533 66 0 (4) 73.95 (5) 30
San Francisco, CA 883,305 24 3 12.5 27.17 3.40 15
Charlotte, NC 872,498 96 3 3.1 110.03 3.44 13
Indianapolis, IN 867,125 103 4 3.9 118.78 4.61 9
Seattle, WA 744,955 20 2 10.0 26.85 2.68 20
Denver, CO 716,492 60 6 10.0 83.74 8.37 5
Washington, DC 702,455 31 3 9.7 44.13 4.27 11
Boston, MA 694,583 15 0 (4) 21.60 (5) 31
El Paso, TX 682,669 70 0 (4) 102.54 (5) 32
Detroit, MI 672,662 107 2 1.9 159.07 2.97 19
Nashville, TN 669,053 71 0 (4) 106.12 (5) 33
Portland, OR 653,115 37 2 5.4 56.65 3.06 18
Memphis, TN 650,618 117 2 1.7 179.83 3.07 17
Oklahoma City, OK 649,021 73 2 2.7 112.48 3.08 16
Las Vegas, NV 644,644 59 1 1.7 91.52 1.55 24
Louisville, KY 620,118 66 6 9.1 106.43 9.68 4
Baltimore, MD 602,495 34 0 (4) 56.43 (5) 34
Milwaukee, WI 592,025 61 0 (4) 103.04 (5) 35
Albuquerque, NM 560,218 85 7 8.2 151.73 12.50 2
Tucson, AZ 545,975 81 4 4.9 148.36 7.33 6
Fresno, CA 530,093 21 0 (4) 39.62 (5) 36
Mesa, AZ 508,958 44 2 4.5 86.45 3.93 12
Sacramento, CA 508,529 50 8 16.0 98.32 15.73 1

(1) Ranked by city population. Pedalcyclists are defined by the National Highway Safety Administration as bicyclists and other cyclists including riders of two-wheeled, nonmotorized vehicles, tricycles and unicycles.
(2) Population of 500,000 or more.
(3) Cities with the same pedalcyclist fatality rate per million population receive the same rank.
(4) Less than 0.1 percent.
(5) Less than 0.01 per million population.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; U.S. Census Bureau.

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Motorcyclist Fatalities And Fatality Rates, 2010-2019

 

Year Fatalities Registered
motorcycles
Fatality rate per
100,000 registered
motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled
(millions)
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
2010 4,518 8,009,503 56.41 18,513 24.40
2011 4,630 8,437,502 54.87 18,542 24.97
2012 4,986 8,454,939 58.97 21,385 23.32
2013 4,692 8,404,687 55.83 20,366 23.04
2014 4,594 8,417,718 54.58 19,970 23.00
2015 5,029 8,600,936 58.47 19,606 25.65
2016 5,337 8,679,380 61.49 20,445 26.10
2017 5,226 8,664,108 60.32 20,149 25.94
2018 5,038 8,659,741 58.18 20,076 25.09
2019 5,014 8,596,314 58.33 19,688 25.47

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

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Motorcyclist Injuries And Injury Rates, 2010-2019

 

Year Injuries Registered
motorcycles
Injury rate
per 100,000
registered motorcycles
Vehicle miles
traveled (millions)
Injury rate
per 100 million
vehicle miles traveled
2010 82,000 8,009,503 1,028 18,513 445
2011 82,000 8,437,502 968 18,542 441
2012 93,000 8,454,939 1,103 21,385 436
2013 89,000 8,404,687 1,056 20,366 436
2014 92,000 8,417,718 1,093 19,970 461
2015 89,000 8,600,936 1,032 19,606 453
2016 (1) 104,000 8,679,380 1,203 20,445 511
2017 89,000 8,664,108 1,023 20,149 440
2018 82,000 8,659,741 945 20,076 408
2019 84,000 8,596,314 975 19,688 426

(1) NHTSA began using police-reported crash data from the Crash Report Sampling System, replacing the National Automotive Sampling System
General Estimates System (GES). NCSA has also changed the methodology of estimating people nonfatally injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

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Watercraft accidents

Federal law requires owners of recreational boats and non-commercial watercraft to register them. In 2020 there were 11.8 million registered recreational watercraft, about the same as in 2019. A recreational watercraft accident must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard: if a person dies or is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid; if damage to the boat or other property exceeds $2,000; if the boat is lost or if a person disappears from the boat.

The Coast Guard says that there was evidence of a significant rise in boating activity in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was supported by reports of increased boat sales, new insurance policies and increased claims, and towing assistance calls. In 2020, total recreational watercraft fatalities rose 25 percent from 2019 to 767 people killed, the highest since 1998 when there were 815 deaths. Accidents and injuries rose at about the same rates.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard alcohol, combined with typical conditions such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray, can impair a person's abilities much faster than alcohol consumption on land. Operators with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.10 grams per deciliter are estimated to be more than 10 times more likely to be killed in a watercraft accident than watercraft operators with zero BAC. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 353 recreational watercraft accidents in 2020 (6.7 percent of all accidents), accounting for 130 deaths (16.9 percent of all watercraft deaths) and 315 injuries (9.9 percent of all injuries). Other primary contributing factors were operator inexperience, accounting for 56 deaths, and operator inattention, resulting in 55 deaths.

 
Recreational Watercraft Accidents, 2016-2020 (1)

 

  Accidents Fatalities    
Year Total Involving
alcohol
use (2)
Total Involving
alcohol
use (2)
Injuries Property
damage
($ millions)
2016 4,463 350 701 133 2,903 $49
2017 4,291 323 658 118 2,629 46
2018 4,145 309 633 119 2,511 46
2019 4,168 330 613 128 2,559 55
2020 5,265 353 767 130 3,191 63

(1) Includes accidents involving $2,000 or more in property damage. Includes U.S. territories and offshore accidents.
(2) The use of alcohol by a boat's occupants was a direct or indirect cause of the accident.

Source: U.S. Department Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard.

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  • In 2020, 75 percent of fatal watercraft accident victims died by drowning, and of those, 86 percent were not wearing life jackets.
  • The most common types of watercraft involved in reported accidents in 2020 were open motorboats (50 percent), kayaks (15 percent), and pontoons (9 percent).

 
Top 10 States By Recreational Watercraft Accidents, 2020 (1)

 

Rank State Accidents Deaths People injured Property damage
($000)
1 Florida 804 72 514 $13,220.4
2 California 493 39 311 6,940.7
3 Texas 281 59 173 2,216.1
4 North Carolina 183 27 116 1,840.4
5 New York 175 28 124 2,201.8
6 Ohio 163 25 84 3,546.9
7 Arizona 162 10 107 1,015.5
8 Michigan 159 31 74 2,204.0
9 Tennessee 155 30 86 3,098.2
10 South Carolina 153 25 81 1,501.7

(1) Includes accidents involving $2,000 or more in property damage. Includes watercraft such as motorboats and sailboats and other vessels such as Jet Skis.

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard.

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ATV accidents

Children under the age of 16 accounted for 26 percent of all people injured in accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in 2018, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. ATVs are open-air vehicles with three, four or six wheels designed for off-road use. Many states require ATV insurance for vehicles operated on state-owned land. ATVs are open-air vehicles with three, four or six wheels designed for off-road use. A 2013 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that the prohibition against riding ATVs on public roads is often ignored. In 2017, 91 percent of fatally injured ATV riders on public roads were not wearing a safety helmet, according to the IIHS. Many states require ATV insurance for vehicles operated on state-owned land.

 
ATV-Related Deaths And Injuries, 2014-2018 (1)

 

  Estimated number of deaths Estimated number of injuries (2)
    Younger than 16   Younger than 16
Year Total Number Percent
of total
Total Number Percent
of total
2014 588 73 12% 93,700 24,800 26%
2015 593 88 15 97,200 26,700 28
2016 591 65 11 101,200 26,800 26
2017 463 67 14 93,800 24,800 26
2018 264 27 10 81,800 21,700 26

(1) ATVs with 3, 4 or unknown number of wheels. Data for deaths for 2017 and 2018 are preliminary.
(2) Emergency room-treated.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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