Whatever sport you participate in, there’s always a risk of injury. So, it’s common for many people to wonder: What sports cause the most injuries?
Although you can find plenty of answers to this question out there, I haven’t found them to be very accurate or put together in an easily readable form. That’s why I’ve written this data-and-studies-based post to address this question thoroughly.
Here is all you need to know about sports with high injury rates. In addition, I also list the most common injuries for each sport.
What Sports Have the Highest Injury Rate?
Here are the sports with the highest injury rate in the US:
|#||Sport||Injury Rate||# of Participants||# of Reported Injuries|
|10||Snow Skiing and Snowboarding||0.54%||10,500,000||57,065|
|11||Swimming, Pools, and Equipment||0.50%||31,000,000||155,787|
|15||Water Sports |
(Skiing, tubing, surfing)
|Hockey||No exact rate||32,982|
|Volleyball||No exact rate||18,766|
|Lacrosse||No exact rate||55,469|
|Horseback Riding||No exact #||41,923|
How Did We Get the Numbers?
Our table is based on the number of injuries reported in 2021, according to the National Safety Council.
We’ve compared the total injuries in each sport to the number of people practicing it in the US in the same year. That way, we got accurate numbers of the exact injuries rate for each sport.
Many sources claim that basketball is the sport with the highest injury rate. This seems true at first glance, but it’s inaccurate.
Such sources pick basketball as it reports the highest number of injuries. Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that basketball is the most dangerous sport.
To determine the injury rate of each sport, we need to consider two pieces of information:
- The number of annual injuries in each sport. Not all injuries are reported, yet serious ones are for sure recorded.
- The number of participants in each sport.
Note that the overall injuries for each sport are many more than the reported number. Still, the registered number provides a good indication of the degree of the relative danger of each sport.
The Top 8 Sports That Cause the Most Injuries
Numbers give a quick overview of sports injuries. Still, there are a lot of untold stories behind the digits.
We’ve written this section to provide you with deep insight into the dangerous sports on the table and why they are so risky.
In addition, we’ll provide you with the most common type of injury for each of these sports.
Let’s take a close look at the logic behind the above numbers:
1. American Football
American football comes at the top of the most dangerous sports in the US. Over 5 million Americans practiced football in 2021.
The reported injuries of the same year were 222,086. The game’s injury rate of 4.25% indicates that 42 players out of 1,000 get injured yearly.
This rate is twice that of a combat sport like martial arts. Some injuries occur in training, but most happen in real matches.
The reason for these numerous injuries is that football includes a lot of violent physical contact throughout the game. This leads to many injuries.
Worse still, football is associated with head injuries that can lead to brain damage. Besides the fatal head injuries, here are the most common injuries in American football:
- Ankle sprains
- Shoulder dislocation
- Knees injuries
- Various shoulder injuries
- Hip pointers
2. Martial Arts
Martial arts, including all its different styles, is the second most dangerous sport in the US. Astonishingly, the injury rate in some martial arts like jujitsu reaches 97%.
However, the number of reported injuries in this sport is considerably less than in American football. That way, it’s placed in the second position on the list.
Because of the intense nature of these combat arts, minor injuries like bruises don’t get reported. Simply because bruises and other injuries are normal in this sport.
Over one million Americans participated in martial arts competitions in 2021. The same year has a record of 24,493 reported injuries.
Not all martial arts are created equal, some styles are more injury-prone than others.
Here are the four most dangerous martial arts, sorted descending according to the injury rate of each:
- Jujitsu: 97%
- Taekwondo: 59%
- Aikido: 51%
- Kung Fu: 38%
Additionally, different styles of martial arts cause a wide array of injuries. Here are the most common ones:
- Concussion: it’s more common in martial arts that involve throwing and striking
- Lacerations, cuts, and bruises in different head and neck areas: this includes nose, eyes, and ears
- Extremities injuries: joint locking and throwing in some arts can lead to cuts, sprains, and bruises in the extremities
- Different degrees of cuts: This is especially common in wrestling
- Loss of consciousness: Some martial art styles include choking techniques that might lead to a loss of consciousness if applied for a long time
It might seem like a low-contact sport at first glance, yet soccer is a high-contact sport. This sport involves a wide range of physical encounters.
Soccer includes a lot of tackling, pushing, jumping, and other contact movements to gain control over the ball. That way, the probability of injuries in soccer is too high.
Around 12.6 million Americans played soccer in 2021. In the same year, approximately 144,895 soccer injuries were reported for players of all ages. This is a 1.14 % injury rate.
Likewise, a study shows that professional soccer players are prone to 4–35 injuries for every 1000 hours played.
Soccer players are susceptible to a wide range of injuries. Nonetheless, some common injuries have a high probability of occurring, like:
- Quad, calf, hamstring, and groin strain
- Ankle sprain
- Knees sprain
- Anterior cruciate ligament tear
- Wrist, hand, and elbow injuries
- Fractures in different parts of the foot
- Meniscus tear
It seems weird that the injury rate of boxing is less than football and soccer. However, you’ll get the point if you look behind the numbers.
Over one and a half million Americans played boxing for competition purposes in 2021. Around 16 thousand injuries were reported in that year.
Boxing matches include a lot of punches, bruises, and hits, which cause numerous injuries. However, the game is known for violent contact. It’s expected to have many injuries.
As a result, most of the injuries get treated without reporting them.
In addition, the frequency of boxing matches, especially for professionals, is much less than that of professional football matches.
All your body parts are prone to injuries when boxing in the ring. Still, here are the most common boxing injuries:
- Different degrees of bruises
- Dislocation of shoulders
- Elbow tendonitis
- Lacerations in different muscles
- Jaw, wrist, and rib fractures
With 259,779 total injuries, the most played sport in the US: basketball, is among the most dangerous sports in 2021.
Some wrong movements, like landing awkwardly, can cause injuries. Violent physical contact, such as getting hit by other players’ knees, can also be highly dangerous.
One of the main causes of basketball injuries is the neglect of safety equipment by most basketball players. This is more likely to happen among amateurs.
Pieces of equipment, like girdles and braces, can significantly reduce the probability of injuries.
Some observations in schools have shown that children who wear ankle braces while playing basketball are 68% less likely to experience ankle injuries. The same can apply to adults.
Basketball players of all ages are exposed to different types of injuries. Here are the most common injuries in basketball;
- Facial injuries
- Knee injuries
- Deep thigh bruises
- Finger fractures
- Ankle sprains
If you know a little about baseball, you know that this sport doesn’t include direct physical contact between players. It’s a bat and ball sport. However, the game has a high injury rate.
Injuries in baseball mostly happen as a result of two players running into each other. The wrong movements are a common injury reason as well.
Collision with the fence of the playground can also cause injuries. Not to mention players who get hit by the ball or bat by accident.
Among 15 million US baseball players, 116,020 injuries were reported in 2021. This is a 0.74% injury rate.
Here are the most common baseball injuries:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Different degrees of contusions
- Ligament injuries
- Muscle pulls
The reported number of injuries for cyclists in 2021 was 375,797. In the same year, over 51.4 million Americans engaged in biking regularly as a leisure or sports activity.
This sport is associated with a high risk of falling and crashes.
Cyclists ride at fast speed going between streets and tracks here and there. Not to mention mountain bikers who perform risky actions and endeavors. As a result, cyclist injuries vary hugely in their intensity.
There are some mild injuries like temporary pain due to the wrong movements. On the other hand, there are some severe injuries a cyclist might encounter. Here are the most common serious injuries for cyclists:
- Head injuries
- Broken limbs
- Muscle tearings
8. Weightlifting and Exercise Equipment
Exercising and using fitness equipment is widespread activity among the US population. Over 61 million Americans hit gyms in 2021.
In the same year, 409,224 injuries from weightlifting and exercise equipment were reported.
Exercise and weightlifting can cause a variety of injuries. That said, some pieces of equipment have a higher probability of causing injuries. Here are they:
Each time you move or lift a weight at the gym, there is a chance of dropping this weight on yourself.
A research paper found that dropping weights is the number one reason behind getting injured at the gym.
Free weight injuries due to drooping weight on someone else are also common.
Surprisingly, treadmills are also one of the most causes of injuries for fitness trainees.
From 2012 to 2014, treadmills caused 24,300 injuries a year in the US among athletes of all ages. Slips and strains are the most common reasons for treadmill injuries.
Considering this, you should be careful when using the treadmill. In addition, eliminate any distractions while using the treadmill to avoid losing control over the equipment and slipping.
Medicine and instability balls are also one of the main causes of injuries at a gym.
The main reason for these injuries is the ball hitting the face of the player when rebounding. Inadequate warm-up is another common reason as well.
The good news about exercising and fitness injuries is that most of them are minor. Still, there are some severe injuries that exercise equipment might cause. Here are they:
- Head and brain injuries
- Face and eye injuries
- Neck injuries
- Tendon strains
- Severe abrasions
- Spinal cord injuries
- Muscle strains
The Bottom Line
What sports cause the most injuries? American football is the most dangerous sport in the US, followed by martial arts, soccer, and boxing.
Baseball, basketball, and cycling are also among the top risky sports.
That said, regardless of the level of danger in a sport, you can minimize injury probability by taking the necessary protective measures.
In addition, you need to meet all the needed performance standards before practicing any sport. That way, you’ll be less likely to perform incorrect movements.