Which sports cause the most injuries to high school athletes?

The headlines might have everyone convinced that football is responsible for the most injuries to high school athletes, but data suggests that’s not the case.

Photo: Kevin Hoffman
Photo: Kevin Hoffman

HealthGrove.com recently compiled statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission showing which sports are responsible for the most trips to the emergency room for athletes ages 13 to 17. Football cracks the top five, but it doesn’t lead the way. That honor goes to basketball.

The list provides some perspective, but it doesn’t take all factors into consideration. HealthGrove notes that the data doesn’t show the number of injuries per player, so sports with greater participation will naturally climb higher up the list. Discounting injuries that do not send athletes to the emergency room also creates room for scrutiny.

Here is the list, along with the average number of injuries each year between 2002-14.

20. Bowling: An average of 764 injuries each year.

19. Rugby: 1,214.

18. Field hockey: 1,825.

17. Tennis: 1,915.

16. Skiing: 4,752.

15. Ice skating: 4,999.

14. Horseback riding: 5,581.

13. Lacrosse: 5,830.

12. Track and field: 8,194.

11. Weight lifting: 8,921.

10. Snowboarding: 9,608.

9. Ice hockey: 12,336.

8. Volleyball: 14,304.

7. Softball: 18,119.

6. Wrestling/boxing/martial arts: 18,174.

5. Gymnastics/cheerleading/dance: 22,671.

4. Baseball: 27,208.

3. Soccer: 45,475.

2. Football: 118,886.

1. Basketball: 119,589.

The breakdown also includes the most common body part injured in each sport — for example, finger in football and ankle in basketball. Click here to read the complete report.

24 thoughts on “Which sports cause the most injuries to high school athletes?”

  1. This is interesting data. But I am curious about the ranking of sports and injuries based on proportional facts . It’s obvious that basketball and football will show most injuries because they are also most popular .

      1. I agree with the number of players ,Yet positions seem to make more sense. There a schools playing football with 25,maybe less players, while others may have more than 100 with the majority never on the field. The constant is there are always 11 players, on the football field, 5 players on the basketball court, etc.

        Then simply factor in the number of games an you can create an almost level playing field to evaluate injuries. The only factor missing, also the most critical is the severity.

        But why take the time to capture and analyze the data if we aren’t going to use it. Sports injuries can be reduced, I have little doubt that they can and will. But how long will it take, and what/who will be the driving force.

      1. With 1,036,842 participants, 11-player football remains the No. 1 participatory sport for boys in high school by a large margin. Outdoor track and field is No. 2 with 600,097 participants, followed by basketball (551,373), baseball (487,097), soccer (456,362), cross country (270,095), wrestling (245,564), tennis (158,151), golf (144,024) and swimming/diving (138,935).

  2. The report is misleading, because the number of injuries does not reflect the severity of the injuries. I’m pretty sure the Football injuries are more debilitating than minor ankle injuries sustained playing basketball.

  3. I’d be curious to see the percentage itself not just the raw number. There are less bowlers and tennis players than there are football and basketball players so obviously there would be more injuries in those sports than others.

  4. Swimming is absolutely a sport and I’m confused why it isn’t on this list of sports. A lot of high schools have a swim team.

  5. This was a great article and really appreciated. That being said, having further breakdown would help with training, preventive maintenance, practices, and trainers etc. – just my personal observation.

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