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Recreational Activity Injury Rates Common Across All Age Groups

Participation in recreational athletics has become increasingly popular and common. In the 2008 census, more than 250 million Americans noted they were actively involved in recreational athletics and exercise. 1 Risks for injury and injury types vary greatly by age. More than 3.7 million people visit the emergency department (ED) each year for sports-related injuries. 2 Another 3.5 million people seek care in an outpatient setting. With the aging population, and emphasis on active life-styles, the injury rate and public health burden is only expected to increase.

Statistics for all age groups to consider:

• The estimated injury rate for athletes 5–14 years old is 59.3 injuries per 1,000 persons. The top 5 activities associated with injury are pedal cycling, basketball, football, playground equipment, and baseball.

• In athletes aged 15–24, the injury rate is estimated at 56.4 injuries per 1,000 persons. The top 5 activities in this age group were basketball, football, exercising, soccer, and leisure sports (golf, tennis, bowling, etc.). 3

• Sports injuries in people age 5–24 account for 68 percent of ED visits for sports related injuries. 2

• In athletes older than 25, golf, racquet sports, bowling, hiking and similar leisure sports account for 2.1 injuries per 1,000 persons. Exercising (including running and walking) produces a similar injury rate, at 1.9 injuries per 1,000 persons.

• Injury rates in athletes over 45 were significantly less than their younger counterparts. In 1996, there were more than 53,000 sports-related injuries in athletes over 65, which was a 54 percent increase from 1990 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Nearly one-third of all sports-related injuries in this population were fractures. 4

Injuries in recreational athletics are a common problem. Education and proper safety techniques may help to decrease risks. The aging population presents a unique set of risks in athletes. Sports medicine physicians can help work with patients and athletes to help minimize risks and keep people active throughout the year.


1. US Census Bureau. Participation in selected sports activities: 2008. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau; 2011. Available at 2011/tables/11s1248.pdf. Accessed March 2, 2012. 2. Burt CW and Overpeck MD. Emergency visits for sports-related injuries. Ann Emer Med. 2001. 37:301-308. 3. Conn JM et al. Sports and recreation related injury episodes in the US population, 1997-1999. Injury Prevention. 2003. 9: 117-123. 4. Gerson LW and Stevens JA. Recreational injuries among older Americans. 2001. Injury Prevention. 2004.10:134-138.

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