Sports-Related Injuries Cause 2.6 Million Visits Annually by Children and Young Adults to Emergency Rooms

For Release: Monday, March 5, 2001

Contact: NCHS Press Office, (301) 458-4800


Sports-related injuries in children and young adults cause 2.6 million visits to the nation’s hospital emergency departments for a cost of about $500 million annually, according to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey’s data for 1997 and 1998. Results from the survey conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics are published in the March 2001 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Sports-related injury visits to emergency departments were more frequent for persons five to 24 years of age. They represented over two thirds of the total amount of sports injury visits (3.7 million for all ages). Sports injuries result in 33.9 emergency visits per 1,000 persons 5-24 years old, and account for almost one out of every four injury visits to emergency departments by this age group. The visit rate was twice as high for males as females.

“Protecting our children from injuries is the key,” said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH. “Helmets, the right equipment, better safety practices and instruction can all help reduce these preventable and oftentimes serious injuries. Participation in sports and recreation games and activities should lead to better health and greater physical fitness, not a visit to the emergency department,” he said.

For children and young adults, injuries associated with basketball and cycling – almost 900,000 a year – are the most frequent sports-related injuries seen in the nation’s emergency departments. Football and baseball are associated with about one-quarter million visits each, and soccer injuries result in about 100,000 visits. These findings don’t indicate that these sports are necessarily more dangerous; there may be just more people engaging in these activities.

In addition to pedal cycling, other sports that frequently result in emergency visits by persons 5-24 years of age include ice or roller skating and skate boarding (150,000 visits), gymnastics and cheerleading (146,000 visits), and water and snow sports (100,000 visits each). Injuries on the playground account for about 137,000 emergency visits yearly.

Sports-related injuries are more likely than other injuries to be to the brain or skull and upper and lower extremities; more likely to be a fracture, strain or sprain; and more likely to have diagnostic and therapeutic services provided, especially orthopedic care.

The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey is a national probability survey based on a sample of visits to a national representative sample of the nation’s hospital emergency departments. For more information visit the survey website.

CDC protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.