Sports injuries make their mark on Aussies

Almost 60,000 Australians were admitted to hospital for injuries sustained while playing sport in 2016–17, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Hospitalised sports injury, Australia, 2016–17, finds that almost one-third (32%) of all hospitalised sports injuries were sustained while playing one of the various codes of football.

‘Many Australians participate regularly in sport and physical recreation activities, and it’s clear that we are a nation of sport-lovers,’ said spokesperson Professor James Harrison from the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit, based at Flinders University.

‘Participation in sport contributes positively to a range of physical, mental and social health outcomes—just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle—however playing sport does not come without risk.’

Football injuries, including Australian Rules football, rugby codes*, and soccer, each accounted for around 8% of injuries, plus almost 2% for touch football. Most football injuries were to the hips and legs (30%), followed by the head and neck (25%).

‘Cycling injuries accounted for around 11% of those admitted to hospital,’ Professor Harrison said.

Just over a quarter (28%) of all hospitalisations for sports injuries were for women or girls. Among females, equestrian activities accounted for 11% of hospitalised injuries, followed by netball (10%), and cycling (7%).  

For all sports combined, most injuries were to the hips and legs (28%), followed by the shoulders and arms (24%).

‘One in 10 sports injuries were life-threatening, with swimming and diving injuries making up 27% of life-threatening cases, followed by cycling (24%), and equestrian (24%).’

An additional 7% of injuries (3,800) resulted in an intracranial injury—this includes cases of concussion, and other traumatic brain injuries.  

Factoring in the number of participants, the sport with the highest rate of participation-based hospitalisation was wheeled motor sports, such as motorcycling and go-carting, with 1,280 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants. This was followed by rugby, and roller sports (such as roller skating and skateboarding), with a rate of 1,180 and 1,175 per 100,000 participants, respectively.

Fitness and gym activities and walking had much lower rates at 10 and 12 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants, respectively.

The report does not cover emergency department presentations where a patient was treated without admission to hospital.

*Due to the way hospitals record injury data, Rugby Union and Rugby League are combined in this report.

Media enquiries: 02 6244 1148, media@aihw.gov.au

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