Children who ride bikes, horses or skateboards are more likely to suffer serious head injuries than those who play team sports, a new study has found.
Research published in the Australian Medical Journal and released by the Predict Research network and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute revealed bike riding was the most dangerous activity for children.
Bike accidents caused the biggest number of head injuries, and the most serious injuries.
The study analysed the data of 8857 children aged between five and 18 presenting with head injuries in 10 emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand between 2011 and 2014. The New Zealand hospitals that participated were Starship and Kidz First Children's Hospital in Middlemore.
Just under a third or 3177 children had hurt their heads playing sport.
Auckland University School of Medicine professor Stuart Dalziel, a co-author of the study, said while injuries from bike riding, rugby, and AFL - Australian rules football - were the most common reasons for children going to hospital, the activities which caused the acute head injuries such as bleeding on the brain were bike riding (44 per cent), followed by skateboarding (18 percent) and horse riding (16 per cent).
Rugby, AFL and football only resulted in one serious injury each.
"But we shouldn't forget that sports like rugby can be associated with concussion and we need to watch out for that in our children as well."
Injurywise, boys got in more trouble than girls and made up 78 per cent of the sports-related head injuries.
Dalziel said he didn't think parents should stop their children participating in these sports, but they needed to be aware that they could be associated with head injuries.
"We need to maximise the protection for our children to allow them to participate in these sports. So for all of those sports that cause serious injuries - bike riding, skateboarding, horse riding - wearing a helmet and making sure that happens 100 per cent of the time is the appropriate thing we should be doing with our children."
New Zealand should also be looking at making conditions safe and separating traffic from where children rode their bikes, he said.
MCRI professor Franz Babl, who was the lead researcher, said the study was designed to understand the severity of head injuries children suffered while playing sport.
"We 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's bike-related injuries were so serious that they died, while 14 other children underwent neurosurgery and 524 required CT imaging.