During 2011-12, an estimated 36,000 people aged 15 and over were hospitalised as the result of an injury sustained while playing sport, and spent a total of 79,000 days in hospital, though these numbers are likely to represent a significant underestimate of sporting injuries.

This report includes 2 types of measures of sport related injury: one based on rates of injury within the total population and the other on rates of injury within the population that reported participation in sports activities. Population-based rates enable comparisons between parts of the Australian population that differ in size, such as age groups by sex. However, since most people in the population do not participate in each, or any, type of sport, population-based injury rates do not provide a good indication of the risk of hospitalisation for participants in a sport, unlike rates based on numbers of participants.

Which sports were involved?

Around one-third of all sports injury hospitalisations were associated with playing various codes of football. A large number of hospitalisations were also associated with motor sports and water sports. Motor sports, water sports and football together accounted for nearly half (47%) of all sports injury hospitalisations.

Australian Rules football and soccer had the highest population-based age-standardised rates of injury hospitalisation (18 and 17 cases per 100,000 population, respectively). The highest rate of hospitalisation based on the number of participants was for wheeled motor sports (3,574 per 100,000 participants). Other sports with high participation-based rates were roller sports, Australian Rules football and Rugby (2,305, 1,319 and 1,292 per 100,000 participants, respectively).

Injury while cycling was also common (8% of cases), although cycling as a sport is not well distinguished from cycling for other reasons in the hospitalisations data used for this report.

For 3 sports in particular-cycling, motor sports and equestrian activities-the injuries sustained were considered life-threatening in around one-quarter of cases.

Wheeled motor sports contributed the highest number of days spent by patients in hospital to the total burden of hospitalised sports injury (over 9,500 days).

Who was injured and what injuries occurred?

Around two-thirds of those admitted to hospital were aged under 35 and over three-quarters were men. People aged 65 and over represented 5% of all sports injury hospitalisations. People in this age group had a comparatively higher population-based age-standardised rate of injury (52 cases per 100,000). People aged 65 and over also had a higher mean length of stay in hospitals (4.5 days compared with 2.1 for sports injury as a whole) and, in a relatively high proportion of cases (28%), the injuries they sustained were life-threatening.

In all but 2 sports (netball and fishing), the most frequent principal diagnosis was a fracture. The most commonly affected body region was the knee and lower leg. Although the mechanism of injury varied from sport to sport, falls were the most common type.