Maddie Nelson had 16 brain bleeds after being thrown from her horse in 2017. (ABC News: John Gunn)
Men are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised playing sport than women, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
- Just under 60,000 people were hospitalised due to sports injuries in the 2016-17 period
- A third of those hospitalised were injured playing one of the football codes
- 28 per cent of those hospitalised were women or girls
The report found almost 60,000 Australians were taken to hospital after playing a sport in 2016-17, with fractures the most common injury.
Over that same time period, just over 60,000 people were hospitalised due to transport crashes.
Of the injuries that required hospitalisation, almost one third (32 per cent) were sustained while playing one of the football codes, with most injuries affecting the hips or legs (30 per cent) and head or neck (25 per cent).
Cycling accounted for around 11 per cent of those who were hospitalised as a result of injuries or accidents.
‘It’s easy just to jump on the bike and go’
Leon McNamara is a recreational cyclist who was knocked off his bike by a car a year ago.
“All of a sudden this car has just turned straight into their driveway, right in front of me, and I ran into the side of the vehicle,” Mr McNamara told the ABC.
He injured three ribs, punctured his lung and needed a shoulder reconstruction.
Mr McNamara said he’s not a professional, but he loves “getting out there” and that he was always going to continue riding after the accident.
“I was always going to get back on the bike, but I was concerned,” Mr McNamara said.
Leon McNamara suffered serious injuries after being knocked off his bike. (ABC News: John Gunn)
“The first ride I went for … I rode past the scene of the crime.
“I was prepared to turn around and come back home if I was too worried about it, even prepared to come back by walking, but it turned out alright and I’m back on the bike again.”
Mr McNamara said that riding on the roads does carry a risk of injury, mostly due to the acts of other road users, and that it has started to affect his mindset.
“We have a very aggressive culture driving on the roads, I think it’s us and them now.”
“If I go for a ride today and something happens and I’ve got something down the track that I’m planning to do … that was never there before.”
However, despite the risk of injury, it was not enough to stop Mr McNamara from getting on his bike.
“I enjoy cycling. It gives me fitness too. You know, I’m not getting any younger, it’s easy just to jump on the bike and go.”
“People were saying to me, friends and family, it’s about time to give up cycling. I thought about it briefly but then I decided, ‘no, I still like to ride’ but now it is on my mind more. I’m much more aware of what the motors might do. Now I think, what if?”
Rewards outweigh the risks
Just over a quarter (28 per cent) of hospitalisations were for women or girls, with football, netball and horse-riding the most common culprits.
Ten per cent of sports injuries were life-threatening, with swimming and diving making up 27 per cent of those cases, followed by cycling (24 per cent) and equestrian (24 per cent).
Maddie Nelson was severely concussed when she fell off her horse during an event in Tamworth during 2017.
The 19-year-old had 16 brain bleeds and slept up to 22 hours a day while she recovered.
However, Ms Nelson says the rewards of riding outweigh the risks.
“It’s an absolute passion for me, I love it,” Ms Nelson said.
“I got straight back on the horse after I fell off and I’ve been back competing ever since.
Despite that, she had doubts about continuing, given the extent of her injuries.
“I was kind of sceptical about whether it was all worth it, given how close I came to seriously injuring myself, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I kind of just thought ‘if I love it so much I better keep going.'”
‘Playing sport does not come without risk’
Professor James Harrison, from the AIHW’s National Injury Surveillance Unit at Flinders University, said the results showed that huge numbers of Australians participate in sports regularly, but there were clear risks.
“Many Australians participate regularly in sport and physical recreation activities, and it’s clear that we are a nation of sport-lovers,” Professor Harrison said.
“Participation in sport contributes positively to a range of physical, mental and social health outcomes.
“Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can lead to a happier and healthier lifestyle.
“However, playing sport does not come without risk.”
Not every form of exercise come with substantial levels of risk though.
The least dangerous sports in the study were recreational walking and going to the gym, which had a hospitalisation rate of 12 and 10 per 100,000 people respectively.
The sport with the highest rate of participation-based hospitalisation was wheeled motorsports such as motorcycling and go-carting, with 1,280 hospitalisations per 100,000 participants.
This was followed by a combined total of both rugby codes, and roller sports (such as roller skating and skateboarding), with a rate of 1,180 and 1,175 per 100,000 participants, respectively.