Trauma & Injury Prevention

Epidemiology of ED Sports Injuries

Elizabeth J. Johnson, MD

Johnson2015With the arrival of summer, more adults and children are playing sports, which inevitably means that emergency departments across the country will see an increase in visits due to sport-related injuries. In fact, sports related injuries are becoming more common. Between 2001 and 2013, it is estimated that there were 16,000,000 sports related injuries among patients aged 5 to 18. On average, a sports injury related ED visit will cost $1,200 and 1.6% of all sports related injuries required a hospital admission. Each year, the numbers have been increasing as more children are enrolled in sports and more adults are joining sports leagues.

The sports which tend to see the highest numbers of injuries are football, basketball, soccer, and baseball and these sports account for nearly 75% of all sports related injuries in the ED. Golf, martial arts, and hockey accounted for the lowest injuries with each accounting for about 1%. About one third of all injuries are sprains/strains. Fractures also account for a large proportion of injuries. Between 2001 and 2013, internal organ injuries increased from 2.5% to nearly 6% and concussions increased from 2% to nearly 5% of all injuries. Ice hockey, rugby, and golf accounted for the highest percentages of internal injuries and ice hockey, rugby, and lacrosse accounted for the highest percentages of concussions.

With the pressures on athletes to return to sports, it is important that guidelines are followed by coaches and parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC provide information on their websites to prevent sports injuries. The CDC also provides guidelines for physicians to follow when treating patients. With the recent publicity surrounding traumatic brain injury, the CDC has provided guidelines on which type of injuries/symptoms warrant imaging (specific to both pediatric and adult patients). These guidelines can be accessed on the following CDC & AAP links:


More and more research is showing that sports injuries can have life-long consequences. Therefore, it is important that we as physicians not only properly diagnose these injuries, but that we also properly educate the patients and patients’ parents/coaches on the appropriate follow up care. Most of these patients will be eager to return to playing sports and it is necessary that we provide them with appropriate guidelines for sufficient recovery and rehabilitation in order to decrease the adverse outcomes.

Center for Disease Control. (2016, May 1). Heads Up. Retrieved from CDC:
Doyle, K. (2016, Jan 8). Kids' sports injuries in the emergency department on the rise. Reuters.
Nalliah, R. e. (2014, August). Epidemiology of hospital based emergency visits due to sports injuries. Pediatric Emergency Care.



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