Of course, these sports are far more dangerous when there are other people involved, and contact sports like soccer are a prime source of injuries. The total for soccer is 226,142, which is quite high considering it’s a bit of a minority sport in America – there are just 11 teams in the professional league, the North American Soccer League. It’s unclear how many people play it at an amateur level, but those injuries have to come from somewhere – the 95,854 in the 5-14 age group suggest that a lot of them are due to kids having a kick-around rather than professional players. Those tackles can be quite vicious, even when it’s just a game in the yard!
Adding hard bats into a game only increases the chance of injury, doesn’t it? That’s what the injury statistics for baseball and softball – 282,008 – tell us. But bats actually feature little in the list of common baseball injuries, which include shoulder muscles tearing (from pitching), knee injuries from running and fractured skulls from balls moving at 100mph. The combination of fast running, fast swinging and people moving in different directions is clearly quite hazardous and once again it seems to be the younger players that get themselves hurt – 114,004 of the injuries are in the 5-14 age group. You can imagine there’s a lot of running the wrong way and banging heads together between bases!
One of the most notorious games for injuring teenagers is football. Despite all that protective equipment, 199,414 of them managed to sustain an injury in 2010 which probably led to a lot of time off school. But again, it’s dwarfed by the number of injuries in the 5-14 group – a massive 240,879 – and there are even 1,644 injuries in the 0-5 group – obviously the best way to sustain a national game is to start them very young. All of which leads to a total of 489,676, of which 462,506 were male. Remarkably, however, only 10,801 of these injuries required a hospital admission – that’s just 2% of all injuries, and less than the number of hospital admissions in that year for injuries related to opening cans (13,014). So it might seem like a very dangerous sport, and there are a lot of injuries but the volume of injuries is to do with the sheer popularity of the sport, and it seems that serious injury is rare. Still, strap the protective equipment on your kid before you let them play on the team.
You wouldn’t think that basketball would outdo football for danger, would you? But with a daunting 528,584 injuries, it does. The peak here is slightly later than football, with the majority being in the 15-24 group (258,225) and a further 102,212 in the 25-64s. But that’s not to say the kids don’t still hurt themselves – another 165,240 clock in at the 5-14 range. So, what’s so dangerous about basketball? Well, there’s the impact that jumping has on your body – compressing bones and putting strain on muscles – and the physical exertion of the constant dribbling when in play. A lot of the injuries are strains and sprains, with the hamstring being a common muscle to damage but, like football, you have to consider how popular basketball is when looking at the volume of injuries.
Now cycling may seem like a bit of a cheat, being a mode of transport as well as a sport, but considering that the national rate of cycle-commuters is just 0.61% (but on the rise), we can assume that most people who cycle do it for leisure rather than to get to work. And the vast majority of bicycle-related injuries are in the 5-14 age group – 206,546 out of the total 541,746. There’s also a frightening level of injury in the 0-4 age group, with over 28,000 preschooler visits by to the ER in 2010. Bikes are dangerous. They are high off the ground, relative to your height, they are vulnerable to the smallest dent in the road surface and they have to share space with cars and lorries – at least they do in cities like London, where 6 cyclists have died in the last few weeks. But for an independently-minded kid, there is nothing more convenient than a bike and so they remain popular with the 5-14s, even when they keep falling off them. But take comfort – 506,749 of those were “treated and released” to go crash again, so although bike injuries are common they’re rarely serious. Still, a safe winner of our “most dangerous sport” title.