More time in sports, but not work, increases youth injury risk

In brief

  • It is important to understand how young people spend their time and the trade-offs involved, such as the associated risks of injury.
  • Policies to improve safety in recreational activities could be more effective in reducing injuries overall among young people than limiting the number of hours they work.

Published: January 2007

Why was this study done?

Young people are generally more likely to be injured than older people. The most frequent type of injury in youth is sports-related, followed by traffic and work. Recently, in research and programming efforts to prevent youth injury, more attention has been paid to issues spanning across settings. This study looked at the relationship between the overall risk of injury and the amount of time young adults spent between work and recreational activities, including sports.

How was the study done?

The researchers used information from the Canadian Community Health Survey. This national health survey, conducted in 2000 and 2001, included questions about job type, hours and injuries requiring medical attention. A total of 9,795 people aged 15-24 were included. Details about school status, gender and other relevant information were also gathered.

What did the researchers find?

Young people who spent many hours in sport and recreational activities – more than 44 hours in the past three months – were more likely to be injured than those who had no recreational activities. Those who worked more than 20 hours a week, which was considered high, had a slightly higher risk of work injury than those who worked less. However, this increase was much smaller than the risk of sports and recreation on injury. This suggests that overall injury risk is driven more by the time spent in sports and recreational activities compared to the time spent at work. Also, young people who were not in school had a much higher risk of injury compared to full-time students.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

The survey involved a large number of young workers from across Canada. It likely represents the experiences of all young workers well. However, the findings are based on reports by young workers, who may not recall events or identify the type of injury accurately.