By far, football gets the most unflattering attention with numerous media reports of injuries in the sport. Concussions and the possible long-term development of CTE have caused many parents to question whether they should let their kids play football. How does football, though, compare to other sports in terms of all injuries?

Data on injuries in college sports

The CDC recently published data collected by the NCAA and 1,113 of its member schools. Researchers analyzed data over a five-year period in 25 college sports. Combining all sports, student-athletes suffered 1,053,370 injuries in approximately 176.7 million athlete-exposures (one athlete participating in one game, competition or practice). How do the different sports compare in terms of injuries, especially serious injuries?

Also read:
Sports medicine stats: Sports diversification among college athletes
Sports medicine stats: College football participation and injuries
Sports medicine stats: Overuse injuries in collegiate and high school sports

Does football have the highest rate of injuries in college sports or another sport?

These findings might surprise you.

  • Football did cause the highest number of injuries per year (average of 47,199), but football also had the highest number of athletes participating.
  • While football had the highest injury rate during competition of any sport, men’s wrestling actually had the highest overall injury rate.
  • In women’s sports, soccer accounted for the highest number of injuries per year (average of 15,113).
  • Like football, soccer had the highest competition injury rate of all women’s sports, but gymnastics had the highest overall injury rate in NCAA women’s sports.
  • Swimming and diving had the lowest overall injury rates for both men’s and women’s sports.
  • Among more serious injuries in college sports, football led the way. Football accounted for the largest proportion of injuries that needed emergency transport of the athlete, required surgery, and caused the athlete to miss at least seven days from the sport.

Kerr ZY, Marshall SW, Dompier TP, Corlette J, Klossner DA, Gilchrist J. College Sports–Related Injuries — United States, 2009–10 Through 2013–14 Academic Years. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 11, 2015. 64(48);1330-6.