Every year, more than 2 million school-age children, teenagers and young adults are injured playing sports. However, sports are getting safer. Our team of analysts found that sports-related injuries have declined by 10% since 2017 — especially in football, where 40,000 fewer people were injured in the last full year of competition.

Key findings:

  • Football is the most dangerous sport for children under 15
  • Basketball, football and soccer are the most dangerous sports overall
  • Sports-related injuries have declined by 10% nationwide
  • Skateboarding is the only sport where injuries have increased

Sports with the most injuries

More people are injured in team sports like football and basketball than in individual sports like tennis. Basketball, football and soccer have the most injuries overall, but the number of injuries varies with each age group. Football is the most dangerous sport for children ages 5-14, while basketball has the highest number of injuries among people ages 15-24.

Sports-related injuries have declined over the last several years. Football, baseball, basketball and soccer injuries have each decreased by nearly 20% since 2017. Skateboarding is the only sport where we found an increase in the number of injuries. There has been a 51% increase in skateboarding-related injuries since 2017.

Sports with highest number of injuries
Sport Total injuries Ages 5-14 Ages 15-24 % change since 2017
Baseball/Softball 157,164 65,058 48,188 -16%
Basketball 403,980 139,733 185,316 -19%
Boxing 16,071 2,001 7,000 -7%
Football 292,306 149,149 116,946 -14%
Hockey 36,885 12,268 14,951 -17%
Lacrosse, Rugby 74,326 28,310 22,613 1%
Racquet sports 25,844 3,408 4,091 -9%
Skateboarding 148,921 46,071 51,864 51%
Soccer 188,336 84,938 71,030 -14%
Track and field 28,048 11,287 12,274 -22%
Volleyball 51,455 18,479 22,652 0%
Water skiing, surfing 18,143 2,186 5,932 -11%

Sports with the highest rates of injury

The injury rates below show the number of injuries per 100k in each sport for participants aged 15-24. These figures indicate where 15-24 year-olds are most likely to have a resulting injury.

sports injury informational graphic

Sports with the most concussions

Concussions in sports are extremely common. The CDC estimates that around 4 million athletes will get a concussion every year. We found that high-impact sports like football and hockey have substantially higher percentages of concussions than others. Hockey has the highest rate of concussion-related injuries, followed by snowboarding and football.

Concussions in each sport
Sport % of concussion-related injuries
Hockey 12%
Snowboarding 10%
Water tubing 9%
Football 8%
Lacrosse 8%
Horseback riding 7%
Wrestling 7%
Rugby 7%
Soccer 6%
Cheerleading 6%
Baseball 5%
Volleyball 4%
Basketball 3%

Will health insurance cover sports injuries?

Sports-related injuries are most likely covered by insurance. If you are participating in a school-sponsored activity, the school will almost always have an insurance policy in place to protect students. However, these policies are mainly for severe or catastrophic injuries.

For less severe injuries, sports participants will need health insurance. Almost every college requires proof of health insurance in order to attend, but elementary, middle and high schools do not. This leaves a gap where sports participants might be uninsured or underinsured.

Because children and young adults tend to be healthy and represent a low overall health risk, buying an individual health insurance plan is often relatively inexpensive. If possible, athletes should have health insurance because without it, even a sprained ankle can end up costing thousands of dollars.

Methodology

QuoteWizard analyzed National Safety Council and Insurance Information Institute data on sports-related injuries from 2010 to 2020. A sports injury is defined as any injury resulting from a sports activity that resulted in an emergency room visit. We looked specifically at injuries involving people between the ages of 5 and 24. While 2020 data was evaluated in this study, we did not factor it into percentage calculations due to coronavirus-pandemic-related changes in sports participation.

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