Study objective: We sought to estimate the effect and magnitude of patients with sports-related injuries presenting to hospital emergency departments in the United States and to examine differences in patient and visit characteristics between sports- and nonsports-related injuries.
Methods: Data from the 1997 and 1998 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a national probabilistic sample of 496 US hospital EDs, were combined to examine emergency visits for sports-related injuries. Data from 16,997 sample ED encounter records for injuries that included narrative cause of injury text were analyzed. Narrative text entries were coded to 1 of 84 sport and recreational activity codes. Sample weights were applied to provide annual national estimates. Estimates of sports-related injury visits were based on 1,775 records with an assigned sports-related activity code.
Results: There were an average annual estimated 2.6 million emergency visits for sports-related injuries by persons between the ages of 5 and 24 years. They accounted for over 68% of the total 3.7 million sport injuries presented to the ED by persons of all ages. As a proportion of all kinds of injuries presenting to the ED, sports-related injuries accounted for more than one fifth of the visits by persons 5 to 24 years old. The use rate was 33.9 ED visits per 1,000 persons in this age group (95% confidence interval 30.3 to 37.5). The sports-related injury visit rate for male patients was more than double the rate for female patients (48.2 versus 19.2 per 1,000 persons between 5 and 24 years of age). Visits from sports-related activities for this age group were more frequent for basketball and cycling compared with other categories (eg, baseball, skateboarding, gymnastics). Compared with nonsports-related injuries for this age group, sports-related injuries were more likely to be to the brain or skull and upper and lower extremities. Patients with sports-related injuries were more likely to have a diagnosis of fracture and sprain or strain and less likely to have an open wound. They were also more likely to have diagnostic and therapeutic services provided, especially orthopedic care.
Conclusion: Sports-related activities by school-age children and young adults produce a significant amount of emergency medical use in the United States. The ED is an appropriate venue to target injury prevention counseling.