Horse riding was a major cause of sport-related injuries among girls in a study of Accident and Emergency Department admissions at two major British hospitals.
The study found that almost half of sport injury-related emergency department attendances and almost a quarter of sport injury-related hospital admissions were in children and adolescents aged 0 to 19.
Researchers analysed injury attendances recorded at two NHS hospitals in Oxford and Banbury between January 2012 and March 2014.
Of the 63,877 attendances recorded, 11,676 were sport-related, with 5533 in 0-19 year olds.
Fourteen-year-old boys and 12-year-old girls were most at risk of sustaining a sports injury, the researchers found.
For boys, the three main sports involved in injuries were football, rugby union and rugby league. For girls, it was trampolining, netball and horse-riding.
Almost a quarter of the injuries were fractures, the highest percentage to the upper limbs.
Rugby union was the sport most associated with head injury and concussion in boys. For girls, head injuries were most common during horse riding.
Trampolining was responsible for 12% of the total female sports injury attendances up to the age of 19, followed by netball at 8.7% and horse-riding at 8%, which was on a par with football among young women.
Girls aged 13 were most likely be injured in horse-riding among the 0-19 year age range.
Overall, horse-riding injuries were 92% female while wheeled motorsport, rugby union and rugby league injuries were 96%, 95% and 95% male, respectively.
Horse-riding was found to be responsible for a high percentage of fractures among girls aged 5-9.
Riding also featured prominently among sports when examined against hospital admissions, beaten only by cycling.
Graham Kirkwood, senior research associate at Newcastle University and one of the researchers who carried out the study, said: “These figures are equivalent to 68 boys and 34 girls in every thousand attending NHS emergency departments in a year.
“This is a heavy burden on the NHS and on children and families from sport-related injury.
“Children need to be physically active but making organised sports as safe as possible needs to be part of any effective child obesity strategy.”
Another member of the research team, Professor Allyson Pollock, also from Newcastle University, said: “This study has some shed some light on the causes and scale of sport injuries and should act as a springboard for injury prevention initiatives in child sport, targeted specifically at the causal mechanisms for these often serious injuries.”
Dr Tom Hughes, emergency department consultant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, said the findings of the study highlighted areas that should be explored to see how everyday activities could be made a bit safer without being boring.
The researchers said serious consideration needed to be given to how data generated can be used to inform schools, clubs, coaches, parents and children and to develop injury prevention strategies and reduce the burden of injuries among children.
They concluded in their study, reported in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: “If public health departments in local authorities and schools were to adopt a high-risk strategy to prevention they should target those in the first four years of secondary school. For younger age groups, trampolines in the home warrant improved safety. Rugby and horse-riding should also be a focus for interventions.”
Kirkwood, G., Hughes, T. C., & Pollock, A. M. (2018). Results on sports-related injuries in children from NHS emergency care dataset Oxfordshire pilot: an ecological study. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1177/0141076818808430