Rates of concussions in high school football games have been on the rise, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at concussion rates for 20 high school sports using reports from athletic trainers over five school years — 2013-’14 through 2017-’18.
They found 9,542 concussions during that time, 64% of which occurred during competition and the rest during practice. Cheerleading was the only sport with a higher rate during practice, according to “Concussion Incidence and Trends in 20 High School Sports,” (Kerr JY, et al. Pediatrics. Oct. 15, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2180).
The authors calculated rates per athletic exposure, defined as a practice or competition. Overall, high school athletes experienced concussions at a rate of 4.17 per 10,000 exposures. Football had the highest rate per 10,000 exposures at 10.4 followed by girls’ soccer at 8.19 and boys’ ice hockey at 7.69.
Over the course of the five years, football concussion rates declined during practices but rose during competitions from 33.19 per 10,000 exposures to 39.07 per 10,000 exposures. The AAP provided guidance on reducing such injuries in its 2015 policy Tackling in Youth Football.The statementcalls for coaches to teach players to tackle properly and officials to enforce rules about tackling.
About 62% of concussions across all sports were attributed to contacting another person, 17.5% were due to contact with a surface and 16% were due to contact with equipment, according to the study. Rates of recurrent concussions declined during the study period. They were highest among boys’ ice hockey, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ field hockey. Results also showed females had higher concussion rates than males in the same sport, which authors said may be due to differences in blood flow to the brain, neck muscles, hormone regulations or disclosure of a concussion.
Authors called for more research on the impact of state laws that govern when athletes can return to play. They also called on pediatricians to help educate families.
“Pediatricians should ensure that youth athletes and their families are aware of the concussion risk associated with their sports of interest,” authors wrote. “Further, pediatricians working with youth sports organizations should advocate the use of safety measures to help prevent concussions.”