High school sports should be all fun and games, but sports injury statistics say that people get hurt. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons asserts that teen athletes are injured at the same rate as professional athletes. This is problematic because adolescents are still growing. Teens grow disproportionally, bones growing before muscles and tendons, which makes these students susceptible to multiple types of injuries.
Parents, coaches, and athletes don’t have to take this news lying down. Learning about adolescent athletic injuries can help you prevent them. Understanding some statistics can help you narrow your focus and know what needs improvement or attention. Knowing the numbers helps you make high school sports a positive, healthy experience.
What Statistics Say About the Scope of High School Sports Injuries
Millions of high school students participate in athletics. Unfortunately, many are injured during every sports season. The sheer numbers illustrate that, while not every athlete sustains an injury during practice or competition, many do.
According to a report in a 2007 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, there are approximately seven million high schoolers engaging in school sports in the United States every year. Related statistics from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and reported by the STOP Sports Injuries campaign of the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine highlight the sheer numbers of annual high school sports injuries.
Of the seven million high school athletes, there are approximately:
- Two million injuries
- 500,000 doctor visits
- 30,000 hospitalizations
While these statistics are from the 2005-2006 school year, they accurately represent today’s numbers of sports participants and injuries.
High school sports injuries can be quite serious. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance reports that high school athletes have more trips to the emergency room each year than youth or young adolescent sports participants. A study conducted at the University of Denver found that during the 2012-2013 school year, 7.3 percent of high school athletic injuries needed surgery to repair.
With so many high school students injured in sports every academic year, it’s important to learn in more detail what is happening in order to effect change.
What Parts of Athletes are Injured? High School Sports Injury Statistics Show You Where
The following statistics can be used proactively to help you shape your athletics program or personal training to avoid injury. Knowing the when and the where pinpoints your prevention targets.
- Sprains and strains are the most common of all injuries. 39% of these injuries occur during practice, while 47% happen in a game or competition. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
- Over 50% of all high school sports injuries are overuse injuries—including, but not limited to, strains and sprains. (The American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine)
- An athlete’s injury chances are 70% higher when he/she specializes in a single sport rather than playing multiple sports (due to overuse of a certain body part or area that comes from concentrating on one sport). (The Washington Post)
- 46% of athletes who specialize in one sport sustain a lower extremity injury, whereas only 24% of multiple-sport athletes suffer lower extremity injuries. (National Federation of State High School Associations)
- Of the 46% of one-sport adolescents, 43% injure an ankle, 23% a knee; 51% sustain sprains, and 20% experience strains. (National Federation of State High School Associations)
The below list shows the most common high school sports injuries with the most prevalent listed first:
- Sprains and strains
- Knee injuries
- Swollen muscles
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Shin pain
- Rotator cuff (shoulder joint) injuries
Perhaps you noticed the absence of head injury, or concussion. Concussion is a special injury that warrants its own section.
Concussions Count: The Numbers Show Their Significance
High school athletes are sustaining concussions, and it’s not a small problem. Take a look at what the sports injuries statistics from the Journal of Athletic Training say:
- Football and soccer have the highest concussion rates of all high school sports.
- In soccer, 64% of injuries sustained when heading the ball are concussions.
- Concussions make up 15.1% of all girls soccer injuries and 9.4% of all boys soccer injuries.
- In football, tackling or being tackled accounts for 67.7% of concussions.
- Linebackers (with 40.9%) and running backs (with 29.4%) sustain the majority of the defensive and offensive concussions, respectively.
- In high school sports played by both sexes, such as soccer and basketball, girls sustain more concussions, and concussions comprise a bigger percentage of their total injuries.
Alarmingly, 15.8% of high school football players who are concussed severely enough to lose consciousness will return to play the very same day as their injury. This sobering 2016 statistic from the Youth Sports Safety Alliance indicates that efforts to keep players healthy and prevent further need to be increased.
High School Sports Injury Statistics for Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries include:
- Non-fatal injuries resulting in permanent disability
- Serious injuries that are severe but without permanent disability
Numbers from a 2016 report of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicate that 74 high school athletes sustained catastrophic injuries in the 2014-15 school year.
The total number of catastrophic injuries for high school and college athletes was 92; therefore, 80% of these devastating injuries happened to high schoolers. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance reports that high school athletes three times as many catastrophic injuries as college athletes.
Tragically, every year there are a number of high school football deaths.
- Eight high school football players died in 2013 from injuries directly related to play.
- Nine high school football players died in the same year from indirect causes like heatstroke.
- In 2013, the death rate among high school football players was .73 per 100,000.
- This high school death rate is higher than the .19 per 100,000 rate of all youth and college students who play football.
High school sports injury statistics indicate that teen athletes are at risk for injuries ranging from mild to catastrophic. It’s time now to take action to reduce the numbers to ensure that all high school athletes have a positive sports experience.