Americans love competition, which makes it no wonder why it is so pervasive in sports. This competition is usually accompanied by a strong desire for maintaining good fitness habits. However, many sports aficionados experience one of the costs of the endeavor to pristine health, sports injuries.
No one likes getting hurt, in the near term it causes us to sit out the game, hold back on our exercise routine for recovery time, and may increase our medical costs. In the long term it may exacerbate arthritic conditions with aging or weaken a body part making it more prone to injury in the future. In the very extreme, it may cause catastrophic injury or death.
This article will hopefully shed some light onto details that can aid in understanding what sports are the most dangerous. What qualifies as the most dangerous sport is a matter of opinion, as it can be measured in a variety of ways. The approach taken in this case was to generally look at sports most people play and compare them against each other in terms of number of injuries, body parts injuries, ages of those injured, and what types of injuries occurred using the Consumer Product and Safety Commission’s NEISS database .
Overall research paints only one perspective of what qualifies as the most dangerous sport. There are so many other qualitative factors that each individual should consider before determining what sport may be safest for them. In particular, it is hard to consider the severity of injuries incurred in the research since everyone has different pain tolerances. For example, one could argue that basketball is dangerous since they had the most ankle injuries, however since most injuries would not qualify as a catastrophic injury, it may be an injury risk the sports enthusiast considers worth taking.
Comparing sports is by nature comparing apples to oranges since some sports by design have increased personal contact and can be affected by the level of protection required by the sport. The choice of the player to wear certain optional protection will affect incidence or severity of injury. For example ice hockey is a high contact sport and players wear considerable padding, but the amount of padding depends on the player. Hockey players can choose a face mask to prevent facial injuries, but it is not universally used, rather at the option of the player. That said there are 5 interesting takeaways:
Protect your head! - The most common injuries to occur for all sports in the sample were to the head (8554), mouth (1544), and face/cheek (5927), so protect your noodle. The national estimates translate into a large number of injuries that might be preventable. The national table (Table 1) is presented below:
|Body Part||Estimate of National Injuries by Body Part All Sports||% of total Injuries|
|Upper Arm- Humerus||13892.78218||0.6501%|
|All Parts of The Body||12930.23376||0.6051%|
|Body Part Stated||5005.251779||0.2342%|
Head protection is becoming more common even in sports such as soccer (due to head on head or head to ground collision) because health officials and players alike recognize the value of injury prevention. Whether on a bike, the ice, or the gridiron, where your head and face protection, and where it properly. Let others worry about the fashion statement a helmet may make while you worry about the scoreboard.
Get a ‘Leg’ up on competitors by taking care of yours – Sample injuries to the Ankle (8052), knee (5470), foot (2076), lower leg (2750), and upper leg (764) comprise many sport participants’ injuries. While often these injuries may not be catastrophic as head injuries, they often lead to health problems as the individual ages. Lack of proper stretching and warm up are often contributors to many over extension injuries. If your team is relying on your legs to make that jump shot or punt kick, rely on proper stretching to help keep you at your best.
Playing by the numbers…- If one defines the ‘most dangerous’ sport by the sport most likely for a participant to become injured, the top 3 would be Basketball, Bicycling, and Football (Table 2). It makes sense since these activities are some of the more popular sports. This definition does not suit everyone since a sport that is more popular is more likely to have more aggregate injuries. If one defines ‘most dangerous’ as the sport with the greatest number of injuries per number of participants then football, skateboarding, and basketball could be considered the most dangerous (Table 3).
|Sport||sport injury/sport participation rate||Rank|
What to play if you don’t want to get hurt- Mountain biking, tennis, and golf where those that scored lowest in terms of injuries per participant. Keep in mind though, that the survey was of hospital visits, so it probably doesn’t include tennis players who go to their medical doctor for tennis elbow.
Injuries favor the young – The vast majority of injuries occur within the 10 to 15 age group, with the 15 to 20 age group a somewhat distant second. The peak injury age, that is the age at which the greatest number of injuries is recorded below for each sport (Table 4). While the peak age differs between sports, all are a relatively young age. If you’re a parent concerned about your youngster’s health in sports, this is especially important. Children are not only learning how to play these new sports, but are also learning to play in their growing bodies. Instilling proper warm up and stretching technique is even more imperative. If contact sports concern you, see if there are intramural sports are available, which can teach sports and healthy activity while avoiding some overly competitive nature that may lead to increased injury incidence. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor as well as sports injury professionals on prevention methods and devices such as sports goggles, knee or elbow supports.
|Sport||Peak Injury Age|
In short, what qualifies as the most dangerous sport is anyone’s guess because it depends on the person who’s guessing. Every individual must first ask themselves what their definition of what qualifies as ‘most dangerous’ and what risk they wish to take in pursuing healthy sports activities. The important take away is that since every sport has different tendencies for injuries. If you know what sport you want to play, then the best way to protect yourself is to understand the most common injuries of your sport and use preventative injury techniques accordingly. Lastly, have fun! (As safely as possible).