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Sports Injury Statistics

Are sports injuries an issue in Australia?

Sporting injuries may be impacting the Australian economy more than you might think. A 2014 report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that there were 36,000 sports hospitalisations in the 2011-2012 period alone, for people age 15 and over.

Top 3 sporting injuries in Australia

SportMost common injurySecond most common injuryThird most common injuryMost common cause of injury
1. Australian rules football (9% of all sports hospitalisations)Bone fractures: Wrist and hand, knee and lower legSoft tissue injuriesTraumatic brain injuriesContact with another person
2. Soccer (8% of all sports hospitalisations)Bone fractures: Knee and lower leg, headSoft tissue injuriesTraumatic brain injuriesFalls
3. Rugby union, rugby league and other (7% of all sports hospitalisations)Bone fractures:Knee and lower leg, headSoft tissue injuriesTraumatic brain injuriesFalls

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014

Which sports are the most dangerous?

Australians love their sports, so it’s easy to get complacent about the chance of a serious injury. However, AIHW hospitalisation data paints an important picture.

Most dangerous sports relative to the number of participants

The most statistically dangerous sports in Australia in terms of hospitalisations, adjusted for the number of participants, include Australian rules football, soccer, motorsports, cycling, rugby and water sports, in roughly that order.

Sports with the most hospitalisations overall

However, the 10 most statistically dangerous sports in Australia accounting for the most hospitalisations overall are:

  • Australian rules football
  • Soccer
  • Cycling
  • Other types of rugby, including league, union, touch football, casual footy and other “codes” or unspecified types
  • Wheeled motorsports
  • Rugby
  • Roller sports
  • Horse riding and other equestrian activities
  • Basketball
  • Netball

Cricket and competitive swimming generally aren’t popular enough to account for too many hospitalisations, but they also have their own specific risks. Cricketers are likely to show up in the ER with a fractured wrist or hand, while many competitive swimmers are much more likely to slip on the poolside and break their leg than anything else.

Injury type and causes

AIHW data shows that Australians may be significantly underestimating how dangerous a sporting injury can be, with about 1 in 10 sports-related hospitalisations being for serious and life-threatening conditions.

Types of injuries

Bone fractures are the most common cause of sports injury hospitalisations, accounting for about half of all cases. While most bone fractures are for arm and leg joints, about 10% are skull fractures. The AIHW data emphasises the risk of head injuries, with 15% of all sports hospitalisations being for head injuries and a third being for traumatic brain injuries.

Causes of injuries

Overall, falls are the main cause of serious injury, whether on the rugby field or even poolside. With fatal “king hits” frequently making their way into the news, medical professionals might not be too surprised at how many people who fall on the playing field end up in hospital.

Safety considerations

Protective equipment

Helmets and other safety gear are mandatory in a number of sports for a reason, but falls can be dangerous no matter where you are, whether you’re training, playing a casual game or going all out.

Insurance

As the numbers show, it’s well worth considering the risks. Most Australians would prefer to end up in hospital rather than hang up their boots for good, so it’s well worth considering sports insurance just as carefully as you would a helmet, pads and any other protective gear.

Based on a February 2017 finder survey

2 million Australians have been knocked out of work by sports injuries since 2012

A recent finder.com.au survey found that over 2 million Australians have had to take some time off work as a result of a sporting injury in the last five years.

More than half a million were forced to sideline their careers, with just under 500,000 being forced into unpaid time off and 178,000 leaving the workforce entirely. A shocking number of Australians have been left without any recourse following these often-extreme sporting injuries.

Both men and women have been affected by sports injuries with 16% of men and 13% of women needing time off work as a result of an injury. This represents thousands of people all over the country.

Consider income protection

Income protection insurance can protect you if you are unable to work as a result of an injury or disability. It usually pays out about 75% of your average income over the previous 12 months. The payment typically kicks in after a specified amount of time out of work, which can be as short as a couple of weeks or as long as several months, depending on what kind of cover you get.

Millions of Australians have been knocked out of work by sporting injuries in the last five years alone, some temporarily and some permanently. Most of them, unfortunately, were simply right out of luck. Depending on the “benefit period” you choose, your policy may cover you until you are able to return to work, or it may only cover you for a few months or years.

Australians are lacking income protection cover both on and off the field

Based on a report by the Financial Services Council, less than a third of Australians have income protection insurance. This is surprising, given how important the cover is and how affordable it can be.

Industry groups have come up with a range of explanations to explain why so few people have income protection insurance, but one of the most common ideas is simply that these types of policies can seem overwhelming.

For athletes, or anyone who plays sports regularly, putting it off might not be the best idea. Every weekend sees more Aussies hospitalised with a sporting injury and if you plan on playing for years to come, who knows when it will be your turn?

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http://www.lifewise.org.au/facts-research (TNS/IFSA Investigation Income Protection Insurance 2006)

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