physiotherapist treating client with injury

It’s no secret that sports can be risky. From football and basketball to summer and winter sports, athletes get injured all the time and for various reasons.

But have you ever stopped to think about the most and least dangerous sports out there? If you had to guess, which sport would you say has the highest injury rate?

We’ve put together this post to go over sports injuries, what activities carry a higher risk, and if there are commonalities between safer and riskier sports.

Let’s dive in.

Sports With The Highest Injury Rates
Unsurprisingly, statistics show that sports with the highest injury rates are contact activities. Common examples include basketball, soccer, and rugby.

In one paper from 2007, researchers summarized 16 years of injury surveillance data for 15 sports. The data included 182,000 injury cases and a bit over a million exposure records. 

The first bit of data collected was that athletes were more likely to get injured during official games than during practice. Lower body injuries were also more likely than those in the upper region. 

Football had the highest injury risk, and men’s baseball appeared the safest. Basketball, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball were also among the riskiest sports.

A paper from 2021 examined the injury rates of ten sports, including weight training and basketball. Soccer, judo and basketball presented the highest injury rates among the ten activities. In contrast, weight training and swimming appeared to be the safest activities. 

Safer Sports With Lower injury Rates
Perhaps surprisingly for many people, weight training is among the safer sports out there. Specifically, bodybuilding has the lowest injury rates, and strongmen were the ones with the most injuries per 1,000 hours of practice. Still, these numbers are nothing compared to contact sports like basketball and soccer.

For reference, bodybuilders suffer from 0.12-0.7 injuries per lifter per year, and strongmen get 4.5 to 6.1 injuries per 1000 hours. In contrast, just over one injury occurred per soccer match in the 2017 Gold Cup. Three-fourths of all injuries occurred due to contact between players, while the remaining 25 per cent happened as a result of non-contact mechanics. Remember that the traditional soccer match lasts for 90 to 95 minutes.

Are There Commonalities Between The Different Sports Activities?
A commonality between riskier sports is that most of them include physical contact between players. Basketball, football, and soccer are three of the most common examples of high-risk sports, and all share the physical contact aspect. 

The shared attribute between these activities makes sense, given that physical impact increases the risk of falls that can result in trauma. After all, one of the papers we saw above indicated that 75 per cent of all soccer injuries resulted from physical contact.

The safer sports also tend to be similar in that they are solo activities or lack the physical contact we see in basketball and similar sports. For example, a swimmer can compete against nine other athletes, but none will reach a point of impact, as all of them have their unique lane.

As far as commonalities between high and low-risk sports, there likely are if we look hard enough. One such is that all professional athletes exert themselves maximally to score points, set the best time, and such. But, the differences play a more significant role in the safety rating of each activity.

April 01, 2022 — Daniel Felstein

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