When one thinks of head injury and sports, football immediately comes to mind.
So it was a big surprise earlier this month when the New York Times published a piece citing cycling as the top sport for head injuries.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cycling accidents played a role in 86,000 of the 447,000 sports-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2009. Football accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, and baseball for 38,394. Bicyclists are also at high risk of colliding with motor vehicles, and when riders are not wearing helmets, this can result in serious head injuries. In fact, about 90 percent of bicyclists killed in the United States in 2009 were not wearing helmets. Cycling Top Sport for Head Injuries – NYT
As more and more Americans hop on their bikes, these numbers are sure to grow. The National Household Travel Survey showed that the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.
Biking has high head injury rates in part because it is so ubiquitous. But it is certainly not the only sport with serious risks. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says the following 20 sports/recreational activities contributed to the highest number of estimated head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009: Report on Top Head Injury Sports
Baseball and Softball: 38,394
Water Sports (Diving, Scuba Diving, Surfing, Swimming, Water Polo, Water Skiing, Water Tubing): 28,716
Powered Recreational Vehicles (ATVs, Dune Buggies, Go-Carts, Mini bikes, Off-road): 26,606
Fitness/Exercise/Health Club: 18,012
Winter Sports (Skiing, Sledding, Snowboarding, Snowmobiling): 16,948
Horseback Riding: 14,466
Golf: 10,035?Hockey: 8,145
Other Ball Sports and Balls, Unspecified: 6,883
Roller and Inline Skating: 3,320
Ice Skating: 4,608
Whatever the cause, sports related head injuries are an important public health problem. CDC Report on Traumatic Brain Injury
For information about the prevention of head injuries in sports, visit How to Prevent Concussions