Following the return of spring sports schedules across the US, a national spike in sports-related injuries is inevitable. So, as Americans around the country take to basketball courts, football pitches and baseball fields, we wanted to make sure people are aware of the potential dangers associated with playing some of the nation’s favorite sports – and what they can do to protect themselves against the most common sporting injuries. 

After extensive research, our team has found that Basketball is the most dangerous sport in the US, with 2,823 injuries sustained in 2021 – 64% more than American Football.

The study follows the opening of the 2022 NBA finals, taking place from the 2nd to the 19th June, which has seen a number of key players unable to take part due to injury. 

We analysed 2021 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)¹ to raise awareness of the risks associated with the country’s most popular sports. 

In 2021, approximately 57.5 million viewers in the United States watched digital live sports content at least once per month², making sports one of the most watched broadcasts in the country. This year’s NBA playoff viewership is at the highest level in nearly a decade3, however, the most watched sports league is the NFL, with the 2021 regular season averaging at 17.1 million viewers4.  

The top five most dangerous sports in 2021, and the number of injuries that landed Americans in the Emergency Room, are:

  1. Basketball – 2,823
  2. American Football – 1,719
  3. Soccer – 1,289
  4. Baseball – 347
  5. Boxing – 247

According to live sports injury data on ESPN5, despite the NFL having five times as many injured players as the NBA, only 1% of NFL injuries have resulted in the player having a long-standing injury, compared to 82% of NBA players.

Our research found that ankles were the most commonly injured body part for basketball players, making up 28% of all recorded injuries that led to hospital visits in 2021. The NBA also lists the ankle as the most frequently injured joint, with over 1,800 game-related ankle injuries compromising 14.7% of all injuries in an average year6.

For football, the knee was the most frequently hurt body part according to E.R records from 2021. Interestingly, the most common major knee injury to occur in football is a rupture of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)⁷. Famously, legendary quarterback Tom Brady tore his ACL after being struck directly in the knee⁸ during the opening game 2008 NFL season, with the injury forcing him to sit on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.

Our sports injury team also reviewed the most common type of injury sustained in each sport – and the amount of settlement money Americans could potentially claim if they were to sustain these common injuries.  

Sprains and strains were found to be the top injuries for the three most dangerous sports in the US, making up almost two fifths (37%) of all basketball injuries, compared to 29% for soccer and 26% for American football.

Ligament pain was listed as the top injury in 23% of cases for both basketball and soccer, and 21% for American Football, making it the second most common sport-related injury in the country. 

We can reveal that such sprains and strains can lead to a settlement of up to $50k, while ligament pain can result in a payment of up to $25k, both depending on the severity of the injury. 

Treating a sports-related ankle injury

In reference to ankle injuries being the most common amongst basketball players, we have devised a step-by-step guide on how to successfully treat a similar injury, with professional advice from UCSF Health.

‘Step 1: RICE

‘RICE stands for rest, ice, compression (with an elastic ankle wrap) and elevation (toes above the nose). For significantly swollen ankles or if limping persists for more than three days, you should see a doctor.

‘Step 2: Rehabilitation:

‘To prevent permanent damage to the ankle, take steps to achieve better range of motion (flexibility), balance and strength. Many of these exercises can be done at home.

‘Range of motion exercise – Place one foot on a stairway step. Allow the back heel to stretch downward over the edge of the step. Hold each foot in this position for 30 seconds.

‘Balance restoration exercise – Stand on one leg with your eyes closed. Gradually build up to standing 30 seconds on each leg. Repeat three times.

‘Strength exercise – Lie on your side on the sofa, with the upper leg hanging over the edge. Place the top of your foot through the handles of a plastic shopping bag filled with one to two pounds of weight (one or two cans of soup). Slowly lift your toes toward the ceiling and hold for three seconds. Repeat 10 times.

‘Step 3: Supportive devices:

‘When back to playing sports, previously injured athletes should probably wear an ankle brace, no matter how much they have rehabilitated their ankle or how good their sneakers. An injured ankle will never have the same support again, so a brace should be considered.

‘Step 4: If pain continues:

‘For ankle pain and significant instability that persists despite adequate rehabilitation or physical therapy, you should see a doctor for further evaluation. You may have injured the cartilage or tendons in your ankle, which may require special testing.’

Andy Gillin, Managing Partner of GJEL, said:

“With spring sports now fully underway, and summer not too far around the corner, we wanted to raise awareness of the common ailments and injuries associated with playing some of America’s most popular sports – and how much you could be owed if they occur to you.

“I was surprised by the final ranking of the list. It’s also interesting when you look at the more common injuries people sustain, particularly in the sports with traditionally less contact, such as basketball.

“Our hope is that people take care when playing sports, whatever it may be, and if our study helps at least one person, it will be worth it!”

Sources:

¹https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/NEISSQuery

²https://www.statista.com/statistics/1127341/live-sport-viewership

3https://frontofficesports.com/espns-nba-postseason-viewership-sees-25-spike-through-semifinals/ 

4https://nflcommunications.com/Pages/2021-NFL-Regular-Season-Averaged-17.1-Million-Viewers.aspx#:~:text=The%202021%20NFL%20regular%20season,top%20100%20telecasts%20on%20TV.

5https://www.espn.co.uk/nfl/injuries

6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8077287/#:~:text=In%20the%20NBA%20specifically%2C%20ankles,play%2C%20defending%2C%20and%20shooting.
https://www.orthocarolina.com/media/the-3-big-football-injuries-you-should-know-about
https://team-acl.com/tom-brady-acl-injury/

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.