When the Rules of the Game are Broken: Research Studies Sports Injuries Related to Illegal Activity

February 29, 2008

A study published in the February issue of Injury Prevention estimates that more than 98,000 sports injuries in U.S. high schools in 2005-2007 were directly related to an action that was ruled illegal activity by a referee, official or disciplinary committee.

Researchers in the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Nationwide Childrens Hospital analyzed data from the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 National High School Sport-Related Injury Surveillance Study.  Nine high school sports were included:  boys football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball and girls soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball.

Boys and girls soccer had the highest rates of injuries related to illegal activity and girls volleyball, girls softball and boys baseball had the lowest.  Overall, 6.4 percent of all high school sports-related injuries were related to illegal activity, with the highest proportion in girls basketball (14 percent), girls soccer (nearly 12 percent) and boys soccer (11 percent).

Thirty-two percent of injuries related to illegal activity were to the head and/or face and 25 percent were concussions.

Our research indicates illegal activity is an overlooked risk factor for sports-related injury, said Study Co-Author Christy Collins of CIRP.  Reducing illegal activity through enhanced enforcement of rules and targeted education about the dangers of illegal activity may reduce sports-related injuries.

Of the nine sports studied, more than 10 percent of injuries in four sports were related to illegal activity.  By definition, activities ruled illegal are not supposed to occur.  Thus, injuries attributed to illegal activities should be largely preventable.

Each sport has a unique set of rules developed to promote fair competition and protect participants from injury, added Study Co-Author Dawn Comstock, Ph.D., of CIRP and a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine.  Thus, enforcing rules and punishing illegal activity is a risk control measure that may reduce injury rates by modifying players behavior.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017-18 list of “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric healthcare systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of nearly 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.4 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at NationwideChildrens.org.