Narrative text can be a useful means of identifying injury in routine data collections. An analysis of data from a near real-time emergency department surveillance system (NREDSS) in New South Wales (NSW, Australia) was conducted to determine if sports injuries can be identified from routine narrative text recorded in emergency departments. Around one-third of all emergency department (ED) presentations during 1 September 2003 to 15 February 2007 were identified as injury-related. Narrative text searching of triage nursing assessments using keywords identified between 282 (i.e. football) and 26,944 (i.e. play) potential sports injury presentations depending on the selected sports-related keyword used. Routine narrative text descriptions from triage nurse assessments show promise for the identification of sports injury presentations to EDs. Further work is required regarding in-depth assessment of case detection capabilities and the likelihood of improving the quality of narrative text recorded.