This report describes and characterises hospitalisation in Australia due to injury sustained during sport and recreational activities.

Exercise is important in promoting health and preventing premature death. However, it is not uncommon for exercise participants to be injured. Most injuries are not severe with Finch et al. finding that in the Latrobe Valley there was 1 sport and exercise related hospitalisation for every 10 emergency admissions and 12 general practice consultations (Finch et al. 1999a). Hospitalised injuries tend to be more severe and costly than other injuries (Watson & Ozanne-Smith 1997). Hence, while hospitalised sports injuries are small as a proportion of all sport injuries they warrant attention.

On 1 July 2002 the 3rd edition of the Australian Modification of the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision, (ICD-10-AM) was introduced. This includes an expanded number of sports categories for coding of activity involved in at the time of injury. Hence, this report was able to be produced.


  • There were 45,452 sports and recreation related hospitalisations in the 2002-2003 financial year in Australia. This was 0.7% of total hospitalisations.
  • The greatest number of sports and recreation related hospitalisations was in the 0-14 year age group with 14,218 hospitalisations.
  • 73.9% of sports and recreation related hospitalisations occurred in males but there were a greater number of females (15 years and over) participating in sports and recreation.
  • Football had the highest number of hospitalisations with 12,600, with 3,944 of these due to Australian football and 3,270 due to soccer. There were 2,799 water sports and 2,725 sports and recreation cycling related hospitalisations. 14 sports and recreation groupings are reviewed in detail.
  • Participation data was available in those 15 years and over. When this is used, wheeled motor sports had the highest rate of hospitalisation per 100,000 participants with 942.7, followed by roller sports with 738.6, Australian football with 734.3 and equestrian pursuits with 692.7. However, these rates cannot be used to compare the potential of danger of particular sports as the extent of participation per person is unknown. Also, participation data was not always comparable with the hospitalisation data available.
  • Fracture was the most common principal diagnosis in those hospitalised for sports and recreation with 22,655 (52.8%) hospitalisations.
  • The recently released National Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion Plan: 2004-2014 (National Public Health Partnership (NPHP) 2004) promotes safer environments and the encouragement of safer behaviour in the sporting arena. The data in this report can help with development of strategies to implement this.