More children suffer serious head injuries from riding bikes than rugby - study

More Kiwi and Australian children suffered serious head injuries in recreational activities, like horse riding, skateboarding and bike riding, than in contact sports like rugby, a new study has found.

A child riding a bike. Source:

Research, which will be published in the Australian Medical Journal, examined 8857 children who suffered head injuries and were treated at 10 emergency departments in Australian and New Zealand hospitals.

A third of the children, who were aged between five and 18 years, injured themselves playing sport, the study found. Of these children, four out of five were boys.

The research by the PREDICT research network and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in collaboration with the University of Auckland found that 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 in none.

MCRI’s professor Franz Babl, who was the lead research author, said they looked at ‘íntracranial’ 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.

There were 524 patients with sports-related head injuries (16 per cent) who needed CT imaging, and 14 children required surgery.

"The study found that in children who presented to the emergency departments after head injury and participated in recreational sports like horse riding, skate boarding and bike riding were more likely to sustain serious head injuries than children who played contact sport like AFL, rugby, soccer or basketball," he said. 

Research found that 45 of the 3177 sports-related head injuries were serious and classified as clinically important traumatic brain injury, 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.

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).