Surprising Statistics: The Five Most Startlingly Dangerous Sports

High contact sports are not the only activities that generate injuries; there is a growing trend in the number of injuries sustained during activities not often thought of as hazardous.


Sports and other athletic activities are well known for generating a significant amount of injuries or illness. While it is commonly thought that the most dangerous sports are those that require significant contact with other players like football or lacrosse, there is a growing level of injury in sports that are not high contact.

1. Cheerleading and Gymnastics
As the popularity of cheerleading and gymnastics for adolescents and young adults has soared, so too has the rate of injury. These activities now often include perilous tricks including flips and jumps where the slightest slip of the hand or foot can spell disaster. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission 2008 statistics (the last year for which data is available) nearly 30,000 cheerleaders are treated in emergency rooms each year.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury research at the University of North Caroline reports that 65% of all catastrophic (resulting permanent disabilities like fractured skulls and broken necks, in rare cases even death) sports injuries in girl’s high school athletics are the result of cheerleading accidents. This statistic is significant when put in context of all high school athletics because cheerleaders make up on 12% of the estimated three million female high school athletes in the U.S.

“I’m not talking about sprains or strains or minor injuries,” Frederick Mueller, director of the University of North Carolina’s research center, said in a press release. “Cheerleading has changed dramatically, from females jumping up and down and shaking pom-poms to a gymnastics-type event where they’re throwing girls 25-30 feet in the air — and sometimes missing them on the way down.”

According to Mueller there are some ways to prevent young athletes from sustaining cheerleading or gymnastics related injuries including having skilled coaches teach proper stunting and technique, a qualification systems where athletes only attempt stunts that they are capable of completing, having emergency room procedures and athletic trainers in place, and avoiding tricks that involving flips off of other athletes shoulders or trampolines.

2. Exercise equipment
Most health and fitness experts recommend that everyone should exercise in some way, but people who do not exercise properly can end up doing significant damage to themselves. The US Product Safety commission reports that 300,052 people required medical treatment for injuries stained by working out.

One reason why exercise can cause injury is from improperly maintained equipment. A consumer has few options when it comes to making sure that a gym or other exercise equipment provider properly maintains their equipment. Users should evaluate the machines they use and be aware of odd noises, missing bolts or screws, or if the equipment seems worn. Before exercising, users should always make sure they have been instructed in how to properly use the equipment.

There is a growing trend in weight lifting related injuries. Part of this may be due to athletes who are overzealous and either work out more than they are capable of, or attempt to lift materials that are too heavy. A recent report in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that 90% of weight lifting injuries occur when people use free weights like dumbbells. Most often, dropping the weights caused injuries, and the most common injuries are sprains and strains.

“Before beginning a weight-training program, it is important to consult with a doctor or athletic trainer, to create a safe training program based on their age and capabilities,” Dawn Comstock, principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “Getting proper instruction on how to use weight-lifting equipment and the proper technique for lifts, as well as providing trained supervision for youths engaging in weight training, will also reduce the risk of injury.”

3. ATV’s Mopeds and Mini Bikes
Small motor vehicles are a popular athletic activity, especially among adolescent and young boys. But operating these vehicles requires significant training, which many people don’t have before they get behind the wheel. The US Product Safety Commission reports that 252,775 injuries occurred in the US in 2008 due to small motor vehicle accidents. Common injuries include concussions and other head or neck injuries. Physicians advise that all people who operate an ATV, moped, or mini bike should wear a helmet and other protective clothing at all times.

4. Skateboarding
Skateboarding is a popular activity among teenagers, but as the sport have become more extreme, the number of injuries has started to increase. According to the US Product Safety Commission there were 149,577 skateboard-related injuries in the US in 2008. These injuries include fractures, scrapes, strains, and head injuries sustained from falling off the skateboard at high speeds. Tricks including flips and skating over rough and uneven surfaces contribute to the number of injuries. To help cut down on injuries skateboarders should always wear a helmet and should try to wear long clothing that fully covers the arms and legs.

5. Trampolines
Jumping is good physical exercise, and trampolines can afford a significant amount of fun for people of all ages who want to experience the thrill of being propelled skyward. However, trampolines result in a significant amount of injuries, and there is little awareness about the hazards they post. According to the US Product Safety Commission, trampolines resulted in 104,752 injuries in 2008 that required medical attention from a doctor or emergency room. These injuries include concussions, sprains and strains, and scrapes and contusions.
-Erin Podolak

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