Serious sporting head injuries

Perth Children’s Hospital has contributed to international research examining childhood head injuries. Researchers discovered that children who do recreational sports like skate boarding, bike riding and horse riding are more likely to suffer serious head injuries than children who play contact sport like AFL or rugby.

Research snapshot

  • Cases reviewed: 8,857
  • Age of participants: 5-18 years
  • Data from 10 emergency departments in Australian and New Zealand hospitals
  • 4 out of 5 of those injured were boys
  • The most frequent causes of serious head injury were:
    • bike riding (44%)
    • skateboarding (18%)
    • horse riding (16%)

What does this mean for families?

Doctor Meredith Borland, Director of the Emergency Department at PCH and co-researcher explains what this research means to families.

“There is always a lot of interest about team sports and concussion, but this study has helped us understand the significance of head injuries across all kinds of sports,” Meredith said.

“Knowing that more significant head injuries come from recreational sports than team sports is an important reminder to be more vigilant with safety and prevention.”

“We love to see kids enjoying the outdoors. Whether playing sports, being in the water or simply playing outside, help keep kids safe with these simple tips.”
  • Wear a helmet and safety gear when riding bikes, skateboards, scooters and horses
  • Ensure appropriate supervision for the age and activity
  • Take special care around water and pools
  • Use proper sun protection

Find out more about recreational safety

There are lots of websites that provide hints and tips for parents.

Bikes/Scooters/Skateboards safety

Water Safety

Sun Safety

Extra information about this research

  • PCH was involved in this research via the PREDICT research network.
  • Research findings were published in the Australian Medical Journal (Publication: Nitaa Eapen, Gavin A Davis, Meredith L Borland, Natalie Phillips, Ed Oakley, Stephen Hearps, Amit Kochar, Sarah Dalton, John Cheek, Jeremy Furyk, Mark D Lyttle, Silvia Bressan, Louise Crowe, Stuart Dalziel, Emma Tavender, Franz E Babl. ‘Clinically important sportrelated traumatic brain injuries in children,’ Australian Medical Journal.)
  • Researchers looked at ‘íntracranial’ injuries in children.
  • 45 of the 3,177 sports-related head injuries were serious and classified as clinically important Traumatic Brain Injury (ciTBI), meaning the patient required either neuro-surgery, at least two nights in hospital and/or being placed on a breathing machine.
  • Sports which resulted in the most frequent reason for presentation to emergency departments included bike riding (16 per cent), rugby (13 per cent), AFL (10 per cent), other football (9 per cent), and soccer (8 per cent).
  • The most frequent causes of serious injury included bike riding (44 per cent), skateboarding (18 per cent), horse riding (16 per cent), with AFL and rugby resulting in one serious head injury each and soccer resulting none.
  • A total of 524 patients with sports-related head injuries (16 per cent) needed CT imaging, and 14 children required surgery.
  • Other hospitals and research institutes who contributed to the findings were Royal Children’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, Queensland Children’s Hospital, Children’s Health Research Centre, Brisbane, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, Children’s Hospital at Westmead, The Townsville Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, University of Padova, Starship Children’s Health, Auckland, University of Auckland, Monash Children’s Hospital and KidzFirst Middlemore Hospital, Auckland.
  • The study was funded by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council; the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne; the Emergency Medicine Foundation, Brisbane; Perpetual Philanthropic Services; Auckland Medical Research Foundation and the A + Trust (Auckland District Health Board); WA Health Targeted Research Funds 2013; and the Townsville Hospital and Health Service Private Practice Research and Education Trust Fund; and was supported by the Victorian Government Infrastructure Support Program. Franz Babl was partly funded by an NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship and a Melbourne Campus Clinician Scientist fellowship. Stuart Dalziel was partly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.