The findings are detailed in the latest edition of the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU) publication Hazard, available from the Monash Injury Research Institute website. The report used injury admissions data collected from all public and private hospitals in Victoria and surveyed 16 popular sports. The four football codes – Australian football, rugby league, rugby union and soccer – accounted for two-thirds of these hospital admissions.
Taking participation rates into account, Australian football had the highest hospitalisation rate with 1000 admissions per 100,000 participants, followed by hockey (329/100,000), soccer (232/100,000), basketball (219/100,000), netball (156/100,000) and cricket (134/100,000). The hospitalisation rate for rugby, an emerging sport in Victoria, was not estimated because participation data was unreliable.
VISU Director Erin Cassell said hospital admissions were only the tip of the iceberg in relation to the number of medically-treated sports injuries in Victoria.
“Many more sports injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments and by GPs, physiotherapists and other health practitioners,” Ms Cassell said.
Of the other sports groups studied, other team ball sports (basketball, netball and volleyball) accounted for 18 per cent of hospital admissions, team bat and stick sports (baseball, softball, cricket and hockey) for 10 per cent of admissions and racquet sports (badminton, table tennis, squash and racquetball) for just four per cent of admissions.
“From the data analysis, we believe that prevention of injuries to the knee and lower leg, including the ankle, needs to be a particular focus of community sports injury prevention strategies and measures, as this body site accounted for the highest proportion of hospitalisations in 12 of the 16 sports studied,” Ms Cassell said.
“The FIFA-promoted ‘11+’ warm-up exercise program in soccer and the ‘RugbySmart’ program in rugby union are examples of community sports injury prevention programs that work.”
Professor Caroline Finch, Director of the Australian Centre for Research into Injury in Sport and its Prevention (ACRISP) agreed that the Hazard report supported the need for significant research into developing and implementing community sports injury prevention programs.
“The high rate of Australian football related injuries indicates the clear need for strategies such as the ACRISP-run NoGAPS program which translates scientific injury prevention research into practical solutions that football teams can adopt to minimise the risk of leg injuries,” Professor Finch said.