December 11, 2015
2 min read

Majority of sports-related injuries occur during practice

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Researchers found that an estimated 63.8% of college sports-related injuries occurred during practices, according to data published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

CDC and external researchers reviewed injury data from the academic years of 2009 to 2010 through 2013 to 2014 and also identified sports in which injuries were more common.

"Data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program indicate that, among men's sports, the highest injury rates are in football and wrestling," Zachary Y. Kerr, PhD, MPH, an injury epidemiologist and director of the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program, and colleagues wrote. "For women, the highest injury rates are in soccer and gymnastics. Estimated injury rates are higher during competition than during practice. However, the majority of injuries overall and within most sports occur during practices because they are conducted more frequently than competitions."

Kerr and colleagues defined injuries as injuries that occurring in an NCAA-approved competition or practice and receiving medical attention from an athletic trainer or physician. Athlete-exposure was defined as one athlete's participation in one competition or practice.

Data analysis included an estimated 28,860,299 practice athlete-exposures, 6,472,952 competition athlete-exposures and 210,674 injuries each year.

The researchers reported that 63.8% of injuries occurred during practices and 21.9% of injuries kept athletes from play for 7 or more days. Injuries sustained in competition were more severe than those sustained in practice in terms of injuries that required surgery (5.4% vs. 3.1%) and injuries that required emergency transport (1.4% vs. 0.6%).

Additionally, sprains and strains were the most common injuries, comprising 45.9% of competition injuries and 45% of practice injuries. They also were the largest group of injuries that sidelined athletes for at least 7 days, the largest group requiring surgery and the largest group of practice-related injuries that required emergency transport. Groups of athletes that sustained fractures, stress fractures dislocations and subluxations and concussions comprised the largest groups of injuries requiring emergency transport during competition.

Kerr and colleagues found that overall injury rates for indoor and outdoor track and field, tennis, swimming and diving and soccer were similar among men and women, but injury rates for lacrosse, basketball and ice hockey were higher in men and injury rates for cross country were higher in women.

"Multiple strategies are employed by NCAA and others to reduce the number of injuries in organized sports," Kerr and colleagues wrote. "These strategies include committees that recommend rule and policy changes based on surveillance data and education and awareness campaigns that target both athletes and coaches. Continued analysis of surveillance data will help to understand whether these strategies result in changes in the incidence and severity of college sports injuries." by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.