Measurement of severity of sports injuries: an epidemiological study

Clin Rehabil. 2000 Dec;14(6):651-6. doi: 10.1191/0269215500cr374oa.


Objective: To evaluate the severity of sports injuries in relation to the severity of injuries due to other causes and in relation to type of sport, using generally applied measures of injury severity.

Subjects: A total of 12403 patients, 4-50 years old, who were treated in the trauma department of the Groningen University Hospital for a sports injury, from January 1990 until January 1997.

Method: All patients treated because of an injury entered the study. A distinction was made between injuries caused by playing sports, home and leisure accidents, traffic accidents and violence. The severity of the injuries was assessed by using the criteria of rate of admission, Injury Severity Scale (ISS). Finally the sports injuries were analysed with regard to type of sport.

Results: In total, 57760 injuries were registered. After injuries due to home and leisure accidents (44%; 25228) sports injuries (21%; 12 403) were the most frequent cause of injury. Of the patients with a sports injury, 7.9% (980) were admitted, which is more than with home and leisure accidents (6.7%; 1690) but less than with traffic accidents (21.5%; 2202) and violence (9.3%; 364). In a majority of cases, admission was related to a limited number of types of sport. The mean ISS of sports injuries was low, as with injuries following home and leisure accidents and violence. The percentage of sports injuries with an ISS higher than or equal to 16 and the percentage mortality were both low in comparison to injuries due to violence or traffic accidents.

Conclusions: Sports injuries rank second highest in terms of cause of injury, after home and leisure accidents; and rank third in terms of severity, after traffic accidents and violence. Even though the ISS is low, sports injuries may have serious consequences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / classification
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology