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Objective: To characterize sports and recreation related (SR) injury episodes in the US population. SR activities are growing in popularity suggesting the need for increased awareness of SR injuries as a public health concern for physically active persons of all ages in the US population.
Setting: The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is a face-to-face household survey conducted yearly by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Demographic and health data are collected from a nationally representative sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized population residing in the US.
Methods: Medically attended injury events reported in the 1997–99 Injury Section of the NHIS were categorized according to the associated sport or recreational activity using a classification scheme based on the International Classification of External Causes of Injury system. Episodes where the injured person received any type of medical attention (that is, medical advice or treatment) from any health care provider were used to report the incidence, severity, and nature of SR injuries sustained by US citizens.
Results: Annually, an estimated seven million Americans received medical attention for SR injuries (25.9 injury episodes per 1000 population). For 5–24 year olds, this national estimate was about 42% higher than estimates based on SR injuries seen only in emergency departments over a similar time frame. The highest average annual SR injury episode rates were for children ages 5–14 years (59.3 per 1000 persons) and persons aged 15–24 years (56.4 per 1000 persons). The SR injury episode rate for males was more than twice the rate for females. The age adjusted injury rate for whites was 1.5 times higher than for blacks (28.8 v 19.0 per 1000 population). Basketball was the most frequently mentioned SR activity when the injury episode occurred, with a rate of about four injury events per 1000 population. Strains and sprains accounted for 31% of injury episodes. An estimated 1.1 million SR episode related injuries involve the head or neck region, of which 17% were internal head injuries. The most common mechanisms of injury were struck by/against (34%), fall (28%), and overexertion (13%).
Conclusion: As physical activity continues to be promoted as part of a healthy lifestyle, SR injuries are becoming an important public health concern for both children and adults. Prevention efforts aimed at reducing SR injuries through targeting high risk activities, places of occurrence, activity, risk behaviors, and use of protective devices need to go beyond focusing on children and also consider physically active adults.