The Top 3 Most Dangerous Sports for Catastrophic injury
A catastrophic injury is defined by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a severe injury to the spine, spinal cord, or brain, which may also include skull or spinal fractures. This is a subset of the definition for the legal term catastrophic injury. The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research in the United States classifies catastrophic injuries based on the three outcomes associated with them:
- Those causing permanent severe functional disability
- Those causing severe head or neck trauma with no permanent disability
Certain sports and recreational activities are considered among the most dangerous due to a higher probability of players or participants incurring a catastrophic injury, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury (SCI).
High-Risk Sports and Related Statistics
1. Football: Football is at the top of the list for catastrophic injuries in males of all age groups, according to the 2011 findings from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries. Youth football players face the highest incidence of TBI and SCI related injuries.
- Nearly 62,000 children and teenagers are hospitalized for TBI each year.
- High-school athletes sustain between 136,000 and 300,000 concussions per year.
- Athletes ages 16 to 18 account for 29% of all sports-related concussions.
- In 2012, concussions represent 13.2% of injuries in 20 different high-school sports.
- 2/3 of concussions occur during competitive play, 1/3 during practice.
2. Cheerleading: Although cheerleading is not sanctioned by the NCAA or as an Olympic sport, it still carries risks and is the leading cause of serious injury among female athletes. Cheerleading incorporates human pyramid building, tumbling, flips, and flying through the air. Cheerleaders are more prone to injury than football players, since falls from heights are not uncommon and participants wear no protective gear.
- At least 37,000 cheerleaders visit emergency rooms each year, though not all are for catastrophic injuries
- Catastrophic injury rates are four times higher among cheerleaders now than in 1982
- Cheerleading is the second leading cause of catastrophic injuries in ALL high school sports, not just women’s sports
- Approximately 500,000 females participate in cheerleading across the US
3. Ice Hockey: Hockey is played by males and females from young ages through college. Allowing physical contact on a slick, hard surface like ice poses a risk for head injuries, despite protective helmets and equipment. A puck is hard and dense, capable of breaking bone at high velocities.
- Concussions account for about 13% of hockey injuries
- Non-contact (slips/falls) are more common than contact injuries, mostly occurring to the head/neck/face regions
- Forwards sustained a greater percentage of injuries compared to defensemen and goaltenders