Horse riding carries a higher risk of accidents especially for the inexperienced

Advice may be sought when a traveller is going abroad and will or may be involved in sporting activities. An obvious potential health risk is accidents, the type which may be specific to the sport involved.

Many travellers attending surgeries or travel clinics are likely to be going abroad to be involved in activities such as skiing, swimming, sailing, cycling, football, rugby, golf, cricket, marathons or horse riding.

An additional hazard is musculoskeletal injuries not so much from an accident but related to the sport due to muscle fatigue, sprains, sometimes fractures, dehydration or exhaustion.

  • Sport can be undertaken as an individual activity where risks are related to the particular sport involved, awareness of what it involves and taking care not to take on more than is reasonable for the person's state of fitness.

  • When team sports are involved organisation may have to follow health and safety regulations depending on the laws in the country concerned.

Knee and leg injuries are common with skiing
  • The risks clearly vary with the activity involved and the experience of the traveller but for the non-professional individual holiday-maker skiing, cycling and horse riding pose a higher risk of accidents.

Sport at a professional level

At a professional level, sporting organisations usually have very well organised health and sports medicine departments since fitness for competitive sporting activities is an essential and often very costly requirement.

  • Advice at this level is something undertaken by specially trained personnel who are familiar with the medical, financial and legal aspects of organising sporting activities.

Health risks related to travelling for sport

Physical fitness appropriate for the activities to be undertaken can easily be underestimated especially when being undertaken in unfamiliar surroundings.

Special advice may be necessary when sporting activities involve going for short periods for competitions to countries where the climate is very different. Also, athletes sometimes train at high altitude to raise their haemoglobin level and increase their ability to carry oxygen which may improve their performance at lower levels (see course 3)

Some sports risk bleeding injuries more than others
  • Personal attention to lifestyle and behaviour to prevent infections is important and most vaccinations and precautions against malaria will be the same as for other travellers, although if bleeding injuries are more likely, e.g. rugby football, hepatitis B vaccination should be considered.

  • This is more so in countries with poor medical facilities and where there is a possibility of needing emergency surgery, intravenous infusions or blood transfusions.

More general travel health advice

Many of the issues in relation to the health risks within the countries being visited are the same as for other travellers (see in particular courses 4-6)

However since injuries may be more likely, insurance to cover all the specific sporting activities being undertaken is essential and insurance companies normally specify which activities must be declared.