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A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that injuries sustained while playing football make up the largest proportion of sports-related injuries requiring hospitalisation in Australia.

The report, Australian sports injury hospitalisations: 2011-12, shows that nearly a third of sports injury hospitalisations were associated with playing various codes of football.

'Australian Rules football and soccer had the highest population-based rates of injury hospitalisation, with 18 and 17 cases per 100,000 people, respectively,' said AIHW spokesperson Professor James Harrison.

'A large number of hospitalisations were also associated with motor sports and water sports. Together with football, these three sports accounted for almost half (47%) of all sports injury hospitalisations.'

During 2011-12, around 36,000 people aged 15 and over were hospitalised due to an injury sustained while playing sport, and spent a total of 79,000 days in hospital.

'The sport with the highest rate of participation-based hospitalisation was wheeled motor sports, such as motorcycling and go-carting, with 3,574 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants,' Professor Harrison said.

'This was followed by roller sports (such as roller skating and skateboarding), with a rate of 2,312 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants.'

Australian Rules football and Rugby had high hospitalisation rates based on the number of participants, with 1,319 and 1,292 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants, respectively.

The severity of the injuries sustained varied by the type of sport. Three sports-cycling, motor sports and equestrian activities-had a particularly high proportion of more severe injuries, with about one-quarter of cases considered to be life-threatening.

Length of hospital stay also varied by the type of sport undertaken. Injuries resulting from participation in wheeled motor sports had an average hospital stay of 3.5 days and accounted for the highest number of days spent by patients in hospital (over 9,500 days).

'The report also shows clear demographic trends; around two‑thirds of those admitted to hospital were aged under 35 and over three‑quarters were men,' Professor Harrison said.

In all but two sports (netball and fishing), the most common diagnosis was a fracture. The most commonly affected body region was the knee and lower leg.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 4 November 2014

Further information: Professor James, Harrison, tel. 08 8201 7602, mob. 0405 031 467

Full publication: Australian sports injury hospitalisations: 2011-12