HUNDREDS of Victorians are dying or sustaining life-threatening injuries taking part in community sport, particularly cycling, football and motor sports.
A study of major trauma in sport by Monash University found that it increased by about 10 per cent every year in Victoria between 2001 and 2007.
During the six-year period, 218 people died while participating in sport - including on-road cycling - and 1019 sustained major trauma that did not kill them.
The highest rate of deaths and trauma occurred in motor sports, which included off-road motorbiking and quad biking. This was followed by horse riding, power boating, water skiing and cycling, both on and off the road.
The study examined injuries in people over the age of 14, and major trauma was defined as an injury resulting in death, multiple severe injuries, urgent life-saving surgery or an intensive-care stay of 24 hours requiring mechanical ventilation.
While the researchers took into account participation numbers in the sports each year, they could not account for changing frequency, so that if people were riding their bicycles more often it might have influenced the results.
The study found injuries were increasing in football, with the most common injuries being abdominal such as ruptured kidneys or spleens, which require urgent surgery. This accounted for 49 per cent of major trauma in footballers, compared with head injuries, which made up 25 per cent of the trauma, and spinal injuries, 19 per cent.
Dr Nadine Andrew, the lead author of the study published in the journal Injury this week, said she had no reason to believe these trends had changed much since 2007, with the exception of football, given that the drought had made grounds harder during the study period.
''With harder grounds, people can run faster and probably hit the ground harder, so the change in weather conditions may have changed things in recent years,'' she said.
Dr Andrew said she hoped the study would encourage more research into the causes of some of these deaths and injuries so preventive measures could be assessed.
''You can certainly look at changing rules in sports or making protective equipment mandatory, but you do have to back that up with surveillance to see whether those interventions make a difference,'' she said, adding that she did want to discourage participation in sports. ''I don't want this to be a barrier, because there are many benefits that come from engaging in sport and physical activity.''