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NC Department of Health and Human Services
N.C. DPH: Chronic Disease and Injury Section
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Injury and Violence Prevention Branch

Sports and Recreation Injury


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as participation in organized sport activity increases, so does the rate of sports-related injuries. These injuries can be minor cuts and bruises, but they can also be very serious. 

Injuries involving trauma to the head or spine can lead to paralysis or death. In the United States, recreational activities, including sports, account for an estimated 3.2 million visits to emergency rooms each year for children between 5 and 14 years old. Injuries from organized and unorganized sports account for 775,000 emergency room visits annually for children in this same age group.

Estimates suggest that half of all childhood sports-related injuries can be prevented, and steps can be taken to reduce risks in all types of recreational activities:

  • All children and adolescents should have a physical exam before starting new sports activities. Adults who have certain chronic diseases and adults who are at risk for chronic conditions (including men over age 40 and women over age 50), should consult with a doctor before undertaking a new exercise activity.
  • Participate in activities that are supervised by an experienced or trained coach who understands and enforces game rules.
  • If starting a new exercise program, set realistic goals and start with frequencies and intensities appropriate to your current physical condition (based on consultation with your doctor) and injury-history.
  • Make sure that playing fields and environments are safe and well-maintained. Check to see that the playing fields are well-maintained and free of tripping hazards, holes, exposed sprinklers or broken glass.
  • Wear the right clothes for the sport you are playing.  Use proper protective gear (helmet, shin guards, knee pads); shoes that fit well and are appropriate for the sport; clothing that is not too loose so it won't become tangled. In some sports, mouth guards and face protection can help prevent serious injuries to the face, head, eyes, and mouth, which are among the most common types of injuries.
  • Stretch and warm-up before playing.
  • Do not "play through" pain. If you are injured, see your doctor. Follow all the doctor's orders for recovery, and get the doctor's OK before returning to play. Playing again too soon can lead to a more serious and long-lasting injuries.
  • Have a first aid kit available at all times.
  • Learn skills to prevent injuries specific to your sport, for example, if you are inline skating, learn how to safely stop or fall.
  • For children's team sports, be sure to match and group children based on skill level, weight and physical maturity - especially for contact sports.

Heads Up about Concussion!

Concussion is one of the most serious injuries associated with sports as it can lead to lifelong impairment or even death. A person does not need to lose consciousness to have a concussion.

The following are signs and symptoms that may indicate a concussion has occurred:

Signs observed by coaching staff

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment or position
  • Forgets sports plays
  • Is unsure of game, score or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness (even briefly)
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
  • Can’t recall events after hit or fall

Symptoms reported by participant

  • Headache or “pressure” in head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Does not “feel right”

For a player who is suspected of having a concussion, take the following steps:   

  • Remove them from play
  • Ensure the player receives an evaluation by an appropriate health care professional. Do not attempt to personally judge the seriousness of the injury.
  • Inform the player’s parents or guardians about the possibility of concussion.

Allow the player to return to play only with permission from an appropriate health care professional.

More Information

For more information and testimonials visit the CDC’s Heads Up Resource Center.