Sport injury data - what we know

SPORTAUS and AIS logoParticipation in sport is beneficial in reducing the number and severity of the rising number of chronic conditions in the Australian population, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and certain types of cancer. However, the risk of injury may impact participation in sports perceived to have high injury rates or consequences.

Australia does not have a national sport injury data collection that incorporates community sport. Without good quality data, it is difficult to understand the positive impacts of sports participation in the context of the risks associated with injury. Furthermore, this makes it difficult to understand the true risks of participation in community sport, or the effectiveness of injury prevention policies and programs.

In 2019–20, 52,300 people were hospitalised for sports injuries, with men twice as likely to be hospitalised as women (Hospitalised sports injury in Australia, 2019-20). However, national data on non-hospitalised sports injuries are not readily available from emergency departments, general practitioner clinics, sports medicine centres, or allied health practitioners such as physiotherapists.

Hospitalised sport injuries represent only a small proportion of all sport injuries. The 2004-05 National Health Survey estimated that less than 10% of persons with a sporting activity injury attended a hospital which includes Emergency Department visits. The 2005 NSW Population Health Survey estimated that less than 3% of organised sport injuries in persons aged 16 and over had a hospital admission.

Previous government initiatives have identified a need for:

  • more data on injuries, including less severe injuries and the causes of injury
  • a lead agency to collaborate with health and sports sectors to collect data
  • infrastructure support and training.

The AIHW has met stakeholders across health, government, industry, sporting and insurance sectors and conducted a stakeholder survey.

A number of themes emerged from these consultations, including:

  • recognition of the benefits of existing mandatory sports injury reporting systems
  • broad support for a national sports injury data asset
  • limited data collection resources with many sporting organisations reluctant to place additional demands on the time of their mostly volunteer workforce
  • a belief that a national data asset should:
    • be managed independently of the sport
    • be enduring
    • be tailored to the targeted population and sport (where possible)
    • incorporate easy to use tools for community reporting
    • be accessible on a mobile phone (to allow it to be used at sports facilities)
    • be of value to users themselves
    • be championed and promoted to encourage injury reporting.