Health Insurance

Dangerous Sports and Activities: Exercise Accounts for the Most Injuries in the U.S.

When thinking of dangerous sports and activities, football, trampolines and ATVs are probably top of mind. However, ValuePenguin researched injuries resulting from dangerous sports and activities and found that none of these ranked in the top three. We found that working out, playing basketball and riding bicycles accounted for the most injuries U.S., among the 23 sports and activities we surveyed.

Key Findings:

  • Leading to nearly 1.5 million injuries in 2017, working out, playing basketball and riding a bicycle resulted in the most injuries of any sporting activity.
  • People under the age of 25 suffer far more injuries related to team sports. While working out is the leading cause of injuries for older people.
  • There were nine activities with more than 100,000 injuries for men, which compared to only three for women.
  • Trampolines are the sporting activity with the fastest growing injury rate from 2013 to 2017, growing by 74% during that span.
A chart of the sports and activities that led to the most injuries in 2017
A chart of the sports and activities that led to the most injuries in 2017

Though it often is regarded as mundane, going to the gym leads to most injuries of the any of the activities we included in our study. Exercise and exercise equipment accounted for more than 500,000 trips to the emergency room in 2017. This is 10 times the number of injuries that resulted from horseback riding.

RankSporting activity% of injuries that resulted in hospitalization
1Horseback Riding14.6%
2ATV's, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.13.3%
3Racquet Sports11.9%
4Bicycles8.8%
5Working Out7.3%

Horseback riding, ATVs and recreational vehicles, and racquet sports most often resulted in severe injury — though they didn't result in a large number of ER visits compared to the activities at the top of our list. These three activities had the highest percentage of injuries that resulted in hospitalization in 2017, with rates 2.3 to 2.8 times higher than the average of 5.2% across the activities included in our study.

Trampolines saw the greatest jump in the number of injuries

Trampolines are the sporting activity with the fastest growing injury rate between 2013 to 2017. It is the only sporting activity to see an increase of more than 50%, as the annual number of injuries went from 83,665 to 145,207 during this span.

A bar chart of the sports and activities that saw the biggest increase in injuries from 2013 to 2017
A bar chart of the sports and activities that saw the biggest increase in injuries from 2013 to 2017

For the sporting activities that ranked in the top 10 in 2017, six have seen a decrease in the total number of injuries. Trampolines, swimming, working out and ATV's however, saw an increase in the number of injuries during this time period.

Team sports are the biggest cause of injuries for young people

RankAge 5 - 24Age 25 - 64Age 65+
1BasketballExercise, Exercise EquipmentExercise, Exercise Equipment
2FootballBicycles & AccessoriesBicycles & Accessories
3Bicycles & AccessoriesATV's, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.ATV's, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.
4SoccerBasketballSwimming, Pools, Equipment
5Playground EquipmentSwimming, Pools, EquipmentRacquet Sports

For young people, team sports are responsible for the greatest number of injuries. Among the sporting activities we considered for this study, basketball and football accounted for 32% of the injuries for people between the ages of 5 and 24. For people age 25 and older, exercise represented the biggest portion of the injuries making up 28% and 41% for people age 25 to 64 and 65 and older respectively.

Men are injured by sporting activities at twice the rate of women

For the 23 sporting activities we considered in this study, men accounted for 2.4 million ER visits and women accounted for 1.2 million. Furthermore, there were nine activities with more than 100,000 injuries for men, which compared to only three for women.

Chart comparing the sports and activities that led to the most injuries broken out by gender
Chart comparing the sports and activities that led to the most injuries broken out by gender

Exercise equipment accounts for 20% of all sports-related emergency room visits by women, making up the largest portion of injuries. For men, basketball ranked as the most dangerous activity — in terms of the total number of injuries — leading to 17% of all of the accidents among the injuries we considered for men.

Methodology

ValuePenguin examined sports-related injury data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 2013-2017 to determine the type of sports that are most likely to result in emergency room visits, and to determine which activities have resulted in more visits over that period.

Bailey Peterson

Bailey is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, covering insurance. He graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Bailey's analysis has been featured by CNBC, the Houston Chronicle and the National Transportation Bureau Safety Board.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.