An estimated 2.5 million American youths and young adults are treated for sports-and recreation-related injuries at hospital emergency rooms annually, at a projected cost of $448 million a year, a study released last week by the National Centers for Health Statistics says.
Sports-related injuries accounted for about one-fifth of emergency room visits by Americans ages 5 to 24, but rarely resulted in death or required a hospital stay, reported the Hyattsville, Md.-based health agency.
The study, which examined thousands of emergency room reports from 1997 and 1998 at 496 hospitals nationwide, is the most comprehensive look yet at how widespread such injuries are and how much it costs to treat them, agency officials said.
The leisure activities that led to those injuries ranged from cheerleading to pickup basketball games, and the injuries were nearly equally distributed between group sports—like football and soccer—and individual-oriented sports, such as golfing and ice skating, the study found.
The researchers said that injured youths who showed up at emergency rooms for treatment most often cited basketball and pedal cycling as the activity they were engaged in—17.1 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively.
School Safety Programs
But the researchers caution that those numbers don’t necessarily mean that basketball and bicycling are more dangerous than other sports. It simply may be that more youths are engaged in those two activities than in other sports or forms of recreation.
“There is great potential that much of this expense, as well as days lost from school or work, can be prevented through targeted intervention campaigns to school-age children, adolescents, and young adults,” the report says.
“Intervention programs presented at schools that are aimed at bicycle- safety strategies, including the importance of wearing helmets, could help reduce the almost half-million injury visits resulting from pedal-cycling incidents,” it adds.
A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as Youth Sports Injuries Cost $448 Million a Year