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Sports and Recreation Injuries in Adults and Children: How Can You Stay Safe While Participating in Leisure Activities?

October 4th 2021

Sports and leisure activities can provide a needed source of both exercise and relaxation [1]. However, whether the exercise involves gym equipment, organized sporting events, or extreme sporting, leisure activities can sometimes result in injuries. In the United States, an average of 8.6 million sports and recreation injuries were reported annually from 2011-2014, with more than half of the injuries (64.9%) occurring in youth and children [2]. In Canada, 56,691 sports related injuries (SRIs) were reported in children over a three-year period [3].

Common activities that may result in injury include the following:

  • Among children: contact sports/activities, including football, soccer, and playground activities [4], as well as basketball, baseball, softball, and the use of non-powder guns [5].
  • Among adults: roller sports, equestrian activities, skiing/snowboarding, and aquatic sports [6] as well as contact sports such as rugby [7].
  • Among older adults: the risk of falling and injuring oneself increases with age [8]. Therefore, activities such as skiing, skating, or golf were reported to result in injury in older adults in multiple studies, as found in a scoping review by Stathokostas et al. [9].

The types of injuries one may sustain from sports and recreation activities can range from mild to severe, and in some cases involve hospitalization. Common types of injuries include the following:

  • Eye injuries, such as corneal abrasion, conjunctivitis, or getting a foreign object stuck in one’s eye [4].
  • Dehydration and heat related illness [10]. Heat related illness can sometimes, though rarely, lead to sudden cardiac death [8].
  • Bone fractures, particularly in children whose bones are weaker than those of adults [11].
  • Concussions [6].
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) [5].
  • Returning to the sport or recreation activity prematurely can lead to chronic pain or repeated injury, and once again, this is more common in children [9].

Some of the above-mentioned injuries can lead to permanent impairment or death. For example, Winkler et al. [6] found that TBIs resulted in a 3.0% mortality rate in their study. Among those who survived their TBI, there is the risk of neurodegeneration [5].

Preventing and Reducing the risk of SRIs:

Some ways to reduce the chances of obtaining an SRI include the following:

  • Wearing a helmet while playing contact sports, rollerblading, or engaging in equestrian activities [5].
  • Wearing protective eye equipment while engaging in sports with the risk of eye injuries, e.g., softball [4].
  • Waiting for injuries to heal completely before returning to the sport or recreation activity [9].
  • Staying adequately hydrated both before, during, and after an athletic activity. This can be achieved by drinking water even when not thirsty and learning about the symptoms of dehydration. Adding flavouring to water also increases water consumption by about 45% in youth [8].


The field of Injury Biomechanics applies the principles of engineering, physics, human factors, functional anatomy and biomedical science to gain an understanding of how human body limitations are affected when interacting with the surrounding environment. LISKE Injury Biomechanics experts reconstruct the movement, limits and forces experienced during an accident or dynamic event and evaluate the cause and severity of injuries. Whether your injury took place at a playground, football field, or ski course, a LISKE Injury Biomechanics analysis can help establish the dynamics of the activity and how this may have caused your injuries.

[1] Zawadzki, M.J., Smyth, J.M. & Costigan, H.J. Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being. ann. behav. med. 49, 605–615 (2015).

[2] Sheu Y, Chen LH, Hedegaard H. Sports- and Recreation-related Injury Episodes in the United States, 2011-2014. National Health Statistics Reports. 2016 Nov(99):1-12. PMID: 27906643.

[3] Fridman, L., Fraser-Thomas, J.L., McFaull, S.R. et al. Epidemiology of sports-related injuries in children and youth presenting to Canadian emergency departments from 2007–2010. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil 5, 30 (2013).

[4] Sarmiento, K., Thomas, K. E., Daugherty, J., Waltzman, D., Haarbauer-Krupa, J. K., Peterson, A. B., Haileyesus, T., & Breiding, M. J. (2019). Emergency Department Visits for Sports- and Recreation-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Children - United States, 2010-2016. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 68(10), 237–242.

[5] Miller KN, Collins CL, Chounthirath T, et al. Pediatric Sports- and Recreation-Related Eye Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments. Pediatrics. 2018; 141(2):e20173083.

[6] Winkler EA, Yue JK, Burke JF, Chan AK, Dhall SS, Berger MS, Manley GT, Tarapore PE. Adult sports-related traumatic brain injury in United States trauma centers. Neurosurg Focus. 2016 Apr;40(4):E4. doi: 10.3171/2016.1.FOCUS15613. PMID: 27032921.

[7] Attwood MJ, Roberts SP, Trewartha G, et alEfficacy of a movement control injury prevention programme in adult men’s community rugby union: a cluster randomised controlled trialBritish Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:368-374

[8] Centers for Disease Control (2020). Older Adult Falls Reported by State.

[9] Stathokostas L, Theou O, Little RM, Vandervoort AA, Raina P. Physical activity-related injuries in older adults: a scoping review. Sports Med. 2013 Oct;43(10):955-63. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0076-3. PMID: 23835813.

[10] Merkel, D. L., & Molony, J. T., Jr (2012). Medical sports injuries in the youth athlete: emergency management. International journal of sports physical therapy, 7(2), 242–251.

[11] Merkel D. L. (2013). Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. Open access journal of sports medicine, 4, 151–160.