Children as young as 11 are hiding or playing down sports injuries, a New Zealand study has found.

Auckland University of Technology Sports Performance Research Institute surveyed football, netball and basketball coaches and netball and football players.

Of 262 netball and football players of both genders, more than 80% reported hiding or downplaying an injury to continue playing. More female netball players compared to male football players reported having hidden an injury and more than 80% of coaches and players had witnessed injured players playing on when they should not have.

The most frequent injuries were lower limb sprains and strains. A lack of player knowledge, the desire to win, and not letting the team down were key reasons given for playing on injured. Liking the sport and not wanting to stop was another reason, as well as playing on for the sake of the team.


A lack of understanding about the seriousness of the injury and long-term consequences was also a dominant theme, as was a lack of subs during games, the study found.

Coaches also considered a lack of understanding regarding the nature of an injury and a strong desire to win as major reasons for non-reporting of injuries.

Players and coaches (50-60%) reported they had observed parents, coaches and other players putting pressure on players to continue playing when injured and this was more common with relatively older players.

Lead author, AUT's head of sport and exercise science Dr Chris Whatman, says the study reflects similar trends overseas and is in keeping with a 2011 New Zealand study of all community football in all age groups that reported that 61% of players continued to play when injured.

"Of most concern is the long term consequences of injury which can negatively impact on long term engagement in sport and quality of life due to the increased risk of chronic conditions. A major risk factor for an injury in sport is a previous injury so primary prevention in youth sport is crucial,'' he said.

Dr Whatman said appropriate coach and player attitudes to injury were important to facilitating the development of safe responses to injury and there needed to be a change in behaviour.