Head injury risks from biking, horse riding and skateboarding highlighted


An Australian and New Zealand study examining childhood head injuries found that children who take part in recreational sports such horse riding, skateboarding and bike riding are more likely to suffer serious head injuries than children who play contact sports such as rugby or Australian rules football.

Research carried out through the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute examined the data of 8857 children presenting with head injuries to 10 emergency departments in Australian and New Zealand hospitals.

It was found that a third of the children, who were aged between 5 and 18, injured themselves playing sport. Of these children, four out of five were boys.

The lead author of the study, the Murdoch institute’s Professor Franz Babl, said the research team looked at intracranial injuries in children because, while there is a lot of interest about sport and concussion, less is understood about the severity of head injuries children suffer while playing sport.

“The study found that in children who presented to the emergency departments after head injury and participated in recreational sports like horse riding, skateboarding and bike riding were more likely to sustain serious head injuries than children who played contact sport like AFL (Australian rules football), rugby, soccer or basketball.

“We found that 45 of the 3177 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.

One child died as a result of head injuries sustained in a bike-riding accident

Prof Babl says that the sports which resulted in the most frequent reason for presentation to emergency departments included bike riding (16 percent), rugby (13 percent), AFL (10 percent), other football (9 percent), and soccer (8 percent).

The most frequent causes of serious injury included bike riding (44 percent), skateboarding (18 percent) and horse riding (16 percent), with AFL and rugby resulting in one serious head injury each and soccer resulting in none.

A total of 524 patients with sports-related head injuries (16 percent) needed CT imaging, and 14 children required surgery.

The data covered the period from April 2011 until November 2014.

Of the 3177 children who presented with sport-related head injuries during the study period, 494 were a result of bicycle riding, 414 as a result of rugby, 306 from Australian football, 291 from football, 212 from scooting, 183 from skateboarding, 141 from basketball and 113 from horse riding.

Seven of the 113 horse riding head injuries were considered clinically important, which represents 6 percent. This compares to 20 of the bicycle-riding head injuries classified at the same level, which represented 4 percent.

By comparison, just one of the 414 rugby head injuries fell into this more serious category, representing 0.2 percent.

Researchers from the Royal Children’s Hospital, the University of Melbourne, Perth Children’s Hospital, 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, also contributed to the findings.

The findings of the study are published in a research letter in the Australian Medical Journal.

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 sport-related traumatic brain injuries in children,’ Australian Medical Journal. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja2.50311

One thought on “Head injury risks from biking, horse riding and skateboarding highlighted

  • August 21, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    When you compare bike, skate and horse riding helmets they all vary considerably.

    It seems strange with no rhyme or reason for these differences apart from some arbitrary style which has no real sound scientific reasons.
    All sports could see vastly improved helmet safety, and any business person could do quite well if quality helmets were correctly designed, tested and marketed. This is a global situation!!

    Though helmets may protect the skull and face, concussion is harder to prevent.

    The brain will still smash against the skull, even with the best helmets money can buy.

    One post concussion problem with horse riding and riding bikes on bumpy trails is that: after a concussion, the up and down motion of just riding will further damage the brain.

    Even roller coasters, playground equipment like swings and carousels, judo, dancing, running around and jogging….

    The study stats do not take into account minor concussions which go unreported and happen frequently in football and even soccer. In the the USA no child under 10 is allowed to head a soccer ball, its a federal law now…

    The small knocks have a cumulative effect too, so maybe 1 year of soccer headers or 1 year of judo is equal to one medium fall. Or something like that.

    Girls tend to be more risk adverse than boys, and not push limits, and the limits are closer in as they also tend to have less spatial vision than boys, and girls skulls are not as robust either.

    Sport as we know it, in all disciplines is up for review in the brave new world.


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