Lauren V. Fortington
Andrew S. McIntosh
Caroline F. Finch
School of Medical and Health Sciences / School of Engineering
Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2021
Sport and recreation is beneficial for health and wellbeing but comes with a probability of loss, including occasional fatal injuries. Following high-profile injury deaths in Australia, concerns are raised regarding the safety of sport participation. To understand the scale and scope of injury deaths, and identify potential prevention opportunities, the aim of this investigation was to describe the number and nature of fatal injuries in Australian sport and recreation.
This is a retrospective cohort study of injury deaths reported between 1 July 2000 to 31 December 2019 using data from the National Coronial Information System, Australia. Unintentional deaths with an external cause, where the activity was recorded as sport and exercise during leisure time were included. Drowning deaths were excluded. Presented are the number and % of cases by age, sex, sport, broad cause and annual crude death rate (population).
There were 1192 deaths, averaging 63 per year. Deaths were mostly in males (84.4%), with the largest proportion in people aged 15–24 years (23.1%). Wheeled motor (26.9%) and non-motor (16.2%) sports accounted for the highest proportion of cases. The primary mechanism of death was most commonly blunt force (85.4%), followed by piercing/penetrating force (5.0%). The years 2001 and 2005 recorded the highest crude injury death rate (2001, n = 92, 0.47 per 100,000 population; 2005, n = 95, 0.47 per 100,000 population).
On average, there is more than one injury death per week in a sport or recreation setting in Australia. Cases occurred in many sports and recreation activities, including those generally considered to be safe (e.g. individual athletic activities, team ball sports.) Detailed investigation of the coronial recommendations that are present within each case is now needed to understand and identify potential prevention opportunities.
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