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

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

The sport most likely to cause injuries? If you guessed horseback riding, trampolining or riding an ATV, you'd be wrong — it's actually simply working out a gym that was responsible for the most exercise-related injuries, according to ValuePenguin's study of sports injury data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
Father and daughter playing basketball
Father and daughter playing basketball Source: Getty Images

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, compared to only three for women.
  • Trampolines are the sporting activity with the fastest growing injury rate from 2013 to 2017, increasing 74% during that span.
A chart of the sports and activities that led to the most injuries in 2017

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

Rank
Sporting 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 in our study.

Trampolines saw the greatest jump in the number of injuries

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

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

Among the top 10 sports, six saw a decrease in the total number of injuries in 2017. Trampolines, swimming, working out and ATV's however, saw an increase in the number of injuries during this period.

Team sports are the biggest cause of injuries for young people

Rank
Age 5 - 24
Age 25 - 64
Age 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 25 and older, exercise represented the biggest portion of the injuries, making up 28% for ages 25 to 64, and 41% for 65 and older.

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

For the 23 sporting activities 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, compared to only three for women.

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 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 types 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.