BACKGROUND:

Ongoing monitoring of concussion rates and distributions is important in assessing temporal patterns. Examinations of high school sport-related concussions need to be updated. This study describes the epidemiology of concussions in 20 high school sports during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 school years.

METHODS:

In this descriptive epidemiology study, a convenience sample of high school athletic trainers provided injury and athlete exposure (AE) data to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study (High School Reporting Information Online). Concussion rates per 10 000 AEs with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) and distributions were calculated. Injury rate ratios and injury proportion ratios examined sex differences in sex-comparable sports (soccer, basketball, baseball and softball, cross country, track, and swimming). We also assessed temporal trends across the study period.

RESULTS:

Overall, 9542 concussions were reported for an overall rate of 4.17 per 10 000 AEs (95% CI: 4.09 to 4.26). Football had the highest concussion rate (10.40 per 10 000 AEs). Across the study period, football competition-related concussion rates increased (33.19 to 39.07 per 10 000 AEs); practice-related concussion rates decreased (5.47 to 4.44 per 10 000 AEs). In all sports, recurrent concussion rates decreased (0.47 to 0.28 per 10 000 AEs). Among sex-comparable sports, concussion rates were higher in girls than in boys (3.35 vs 1.51 per 10 000 AEs; injury rate ratio = 2.22; 95% CI: 2.07 to 2.39). Also, among sex-comparable sports, girls had larger proportions of concussions that were recurrent than boys did (9.3% vs 6.4%; injury proportion ratio = 1.44; 95% CI: 1.11 to 1.88).

CONCLUSIONS:

Rates of football practice-related concussions and recurrent concussions across all sports decreased. Changes in concussion rates may be associated with changes in concussion incidence, diagnosis, and management. Future research should continue to monitor trends and examine the effect of prevention strategies.

What’s Known on This Subject:

Previous estimates of concussion incidence in high school sports are available but dated. Ongoing monitoring of injury incidence provides the opportunity for clinicians and researchers to understand how concussion rates and distributions may have changed over time.

What This Study Adds:

During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years, the rates of football practice concussions and recurrent concussions across all sports decreased. Competition concussion rates increased in football. Concussion incidence was also higher in the latter halves of competitions and practices across numerous sports.

Concussions in high school sports have resonated as a major public health problem. Such concern originates from previous research that has found concussion to be a common sport-related injury14  and associated with adverse short- and long-term health-related outcomes.59  It has been speculated that such concerns about concussion may have contributed to the decline in participation in football (a 4.6% decrease in high school 11-player football from 2012–2013 to 2017–2018).10,11  Despite this, data from the National Federation of State High School Associations has indicated a steady rise in high school sports participation overall (a 3.5% increase from 2012–2013 to 2017–2018).10 

The van Mechelen et al12  sequence of prevention framework emphasizes that injury prevention is a cyclical process that includes examining incidence, etiology, and preventive measures associated with injury; most importantly, it encourages the ongoing monitoring of injury incidence for longitudinal assessments. Although previous estimates of concussion incidence in high school sports are available,2,13,14  most recently from the 2011–2012 to 2013–2014 academic years,13  the identification, diagnosis, and management of concussion is a rapidly evolving area of medicine, with new scientific findings and policy changes regularly being implemented.15  Ongoing monitoring of injury incidence provides the opportunity for clinicians and researchers to understand how concussion rates and distributions may have changed over time,12  especially in relation to policy, considering that all 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia have legislation related to concussion management.16  In this study, we aimed to describe the epidemiology of concussions sustained in high school sports during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years.

Data originated from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study (High School Reporting Information Online [HS RIO]) during 5 academic years (2013–2014 to 2017–2018). This study was deemed exempt by the Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board, Aurora, Colorado. The methodology of HS RIO has been previously described17,18  but is summarized below.

HS RIO data originated from a sample of high schools with 1 or more athletic trainers (ATs) that had valid e-mail addresses. Two data collection panels during the study period were available. The first panel collected data from a random sample of ∼100 high schools that were recruited annually to report data for 9 original sports of interest (boys’ football, wrestling, soccer, basketball, and baseball and girls’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, and softball). These high schools were categorized into 8 strata based on cross-sections of school population (enrollment ≤1000 or >1000) and US Census geographic region (Midwest, Northeast, South, and West).19  If a school dropped out of the system, a replacement from the same stratum was selected. The second panel consisted of an additional convenience sample of high schools recruited annually that reported data for additional sports of interest (eg, boys’ cross country, ice hockey, lacrosse, swimming, and track; girls’ cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming, and track; and cheerleading) and any of the original 9 sports of interest. ATs at schools from the first panel could also contribute data to the second panel by reporting data for sports outside of the original 9 sports of interest. Data considered for this study originated from both panels and featured 20 sports with participation varying by sport and year. The 20 sports included in this study were as follows: boys’ football, wrestling, soccer, basketball, baseball, cross country, ice hockey, lacrosse, swimming and diving, and track and field; girls’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming and diving, and track and field; and coed cheerleading.

ATs from participating high schools reported injury incidence and athlete exposure (AE) information weekly throughout the academic year using a secure Web site. For each injury, the AT completed a detailed injury report (body part, diagnosis, mechanism, activity, position, recurrence, etc). A reportable AE was defined as 1 athlete participating in 1 school-sanctioned practice or competition. Our injury of focus, concussion, was defined as (1) occurring as a result of participation in an organized practice or competition, (2) requiring medical attention by an AT or physician, and (3) being diagnosed as a concussion. Although other injuries collected via HS RIO were only included if they resulted in participation restriction time ≥24 hours, all concussions regardless of participation restriction time were included. We did not provide a definition for concussion because we relied on the expertise of the ATs and any additional team medical staff. Nonetheless, concussion consensus statements were available to medical staff.15,20  Internal validity checks conducted by HS RIO staff have consistently found sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value >90%.21 

Data were analyzed by using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute, Inc, Cary, NC). Concussion frequencies, distributions, and rates per 10 000 AEs with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Injury rate ratios (IRRs)22  compared concussion rates by event type (ie, competition or practice) and by sex in sex-comparable sports (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, track, and swimming). Lacrosse was not considered a sex-comparable sport because rules regarding contact vary between the boys’ and girls’ sports. An example of an IRR comparing competition and practice rates is as follows:

formula

Injury proportion ratios (IPRs)22  compared distributions by injury mechanism and recurrence. An example of an IPR comparing the proportion of concussions that were due to contact with another person between boys and girls is as follows:

formula

IRRs and IPRs with 95% CIs excluding 1.00 were considered statistically significant. Linear regression was used to analyze trends in concussion rates across the study period and estimate average annual changes (ie, mean differences). Mean differences with 95% CIs excluding 0.0 were considered statistically significant.

During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years, 9542 concussions were reported from the study sample (Table 1). Of these, 63.7% occurred during competitions, and 36.3% occurred during practices. Most concussions were reported in the regular season (81.6%), followed by the preseason (14.2%) and the postseason (3.3%); 0.9% of concussions did not have time-in-season data.

TABLE 1

Concussion Counts and Rates Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 Academic Years

SportNo. ConcussionsNo. AEsRates per 10 000 AEsaCompetition Versus Practice Rate Ratio (95% CI)
CompetitionPracticeOverallCompetitionPracticeOverallCompetitionPracticeOverall
Boys-only sports           
 Football 2521 1662 4183 703 784 3 319 623 4 023 407 35.82 5.01 10.40 7.15 (6.73 to 7.61)b 
 Ice hockey 187 21 208 95 854 174 769 270 623 19.51 1.20 7.69 16.24 (10.34 to 25.49)b 
 Lacrosse 256 67 323 196 296 460 069 656 365 13.04 1.46 4.92 8.96 (6.84 to 11.72)b 
 Wrestling 292 273 565 294 452 874 227 1 168 679 9.92 3.12 4.83 3.18 (2.69 to 3.75)b 
 Soccer 421 107 528 450 768 1 029 898 1 480 666 9.34 1.04 3.57 8.99 (7.27 to 11.11)b 
 Basketball 224 152 376 544 463 1 225 492 1 769 955 4.11 1.24 2.12 3.32 (2.70 to 4.08)b 
 Baseball 96 40 136 461 197 851 518 1 312 715 2.08 0.47 1.04 4.43 (3.06 to 6.41)b 
 Swimming 14 18 88 029 396 751 484 780 0.45 0.35 0.37 1.29 (0.42 to 3.91) 
 Track and field 11 14 25 273 956 1 173 477 1 447 433 0.40 0.12 0.17 3.37 (1.53 to 7.41)b 
 Cross country 119 026 595 291 714 317 0.00 0.07 0.06 N/A 
Girls-only sports           
 Soccer 864 191 1055 396 309 891 423 1 287 732 21.80 2.14 8.19 10.17 (8.70 to 11.90)b 
 Basketball 504 142 646 416 477 916 289 1 332 766 12.10 1.55 4.85 7.81 (6.48 to 9.41)b 
 Lacrosse 152 57 209 151 826 343 593 495 419 10.01 1.66 4.22 6.03 (4.45 to 8.18)b 
 Volleyball 236 187 423 445 344 899 742 1 345 086 5.30 2.08 3.14 2.55 (2.10 to 3.09)b 
 Field hockey 77 22 99 118 323 253 266 371 589 6.51 0.87 2.66 7.49 (4.66 to 12.03)b 
 Softball 133 92 225 338 722 642 798 981 520 3.93 1.43 2.29 2.74 (2.10 to 3.58)b 
 Swimming 28 36 101 238 445 615 546 853 0.79 0.63 0.66 1.26 (0.57 to 2.76) 
 Track and field 16 19 35 231 208 987 341 1 218 549 0.69 0.19 0.29 3.60 (1.85 to 6.99)b 
 Cross country 101 000 511 038 612 038 0.30 0.10 0.13 3.04 (0.73 to 12.70) 
Coed sports: cheerleadingc 74 366 440 333 758 1 016 114 1 349 872 2.22 3.60 3.26 0.62 (0.48 to 0.79)b 
Boys’ sex-comparable sports totald 756 331 1087 1 937 439 5 272 427 7 209 866 3.90 0.63 1.51 6.22 (5.46 to 7.07)b 
Girls’ sex-comparable sports totald 1528 477 2005 1 584 954 4 394 504 5 979 458 9.64 1.09 3.35 8.88 (8.01 to 9.84)b 
Overall total 6079 3463 9542 5 862 030 17 008 334 22 870 364 10.37 2.04 4.17 5.09 (4.89 to 5.31)b 
SportNo. ConcussionsNo. AEsRates per 10 000 AEsaCompetition Versus Practice Rate Ratio (95% CI)
CompetitionPracticeOverallCompetitionPracticeOverallCompetitionPracticeOverall
Boys-only sports           
 Football 2521 1662 4183 703 784 3 319 623 4 023 407 35.82 5.01 10.40 7.15 (6.73 to 7.61)b 
 Ice hockey 187 21 208 95 854 174 769 270 623 19.51 1.20 7.69 16.24 (10.34 to 25.49)b 
 Lacrosse 256 67 323 196 296 460 069 656 365 13.04 1.46 4.92 8.96 (6.84 to 11.72)b 
 Wrestling 292 273 565 294 452 874 227 1 168 679 9.92 3.12 4.83 3.18 (2.69 to 3.75)b 
 Soccer 421 107 528 450 768 1 029 898 1 480 666 9.34 1.04 3.57 8.99 (7.27 to 11.11)b 
 Basketball 224 152 376 544 463 1 225 492 1 769 955 4.11 1.24 2.12 3.32 (2.70 to 4.08)b 
 Baseball 96 40 136 461 197 851 518 1 312 715 2.08 0.47 1.04 4.43 (3.06 to 6.41)b 
 Swimming 14 18 88 029 396 751 484 780 0.45 0.35 0.37 1.29 (0.42 to 3.91) 
 Track and field 11 14 25 273 956 1 173 477 1 447 433 0.40 0.12 0.17 3.37 (1.53 to 7.41)b 
 Cross country 119 026 595 291 714 317 0.00 0.07 0.06 N/A 
Girls-only sports           
 Soccer 864 191 1055 396 309 891 423 1 287 732 21.80 2.14 8.19 10.17 (8.70 to 11.90)b 
 Basketball 504 142 646 416 477 916 289 1 332 766 12.10 1.55 4.85 7.81 (6.48 to 9.41)b 
 Lacrosse 152 57 209 151 826 343 593 495 419 10.01 1.66 4.22 6.03 (4.45 to 8.18)b 
 Volleyball 236 187 423 445 344 899 742 1 345 086 5.30 2.08 3.14 2.55 (2.10 to 3.09)b 
 Field hockey 77 22 99 118 323 253 266 371 589 6.51 0.87 2.66 7.49 (4.66 to 12.03)b 
 Softball 133 92 225 338 722 642 798 981 520 3.93 1.43 2.29 2.74 (2.10 to 3.58)b 
 Swimming 28 36 101 238 445 615 546 853 0.79 0.63 0.66 1.26 (0.57 to 2.76) 
 Track and field 16 19 35 231 208 987 341 1 218 549 0.69 0.19 0.29 3.60 (1.85 to 6.99)b 
 Cross country 101 000 511 038 612 038 0.30 0.10 0.13 3.04 (0.73 to 12.70) 
Coed sports: cheerleadingc 74 366 440 333 758 1 016 114 1 349 872 2.22 3.60 3.26 0.62 (0.48 to 0.79)b 
Boys’ sex-comparable sports totald 756 331 1087 1 937 439 5 272 427 7 209 866 3.90 0.63 1.51 6.22 (5.46 to 7.07)b 
Girls’ sex-comparable sports totald 1528 477 2005 1 584 954 4 394 504 5 979 458 9.64 1.09 3.35 8.88 (8.01 to 9.84)b 
Overall total 6079 3463 9542 5 862 030 17 008 334 22 870 364 10.37 2.04 4.17 5.09 (4.89 to 5.31)b 

N/A, not applicable.

a

One athlete participating in 1 practice or 1 competition.

b

Denotes statistical significance (IRR, 95% CI does not include 1.00).

c

Competition category also includes performance events for cheerleading.

d

Only includes sports in which both sexes participated (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field).

The 9542 reported concussions occurred during 22 870 364 AEs for an overall rate of 4.17 per 10 000 AEs (95% CI: 4.09 to 4.26; Table 1). Boys’ football had the highest overall concussion rate (10.40 per 10 000 AEs), followed by girls’ soccer (8.19 per 10 000 AEs) and boys’ ice hockey (7.69 per 10 000 AEs). Findings were similar when examining concussion rates in competition. When examining concussion incidence in practice, the highest rates were observed in boys’ football (5.01 per 10 000 AEs), followed by cheerleading (3.60 per 10 000 AEs) and boys’ wrestling (3.12 per 10 000 AEs).

Overall, the concussion rate was higher in competition than practice (10.37 vs 2.04 per 10 000 AEs; IRR = 5.09; 95% CI: 4.89 to 5.31; Table 1). Sport-specific findings were generally consistent with overall findings in this regard. However, in cheerleading, the concussion rate in competition was lower than that in practice (2.22 vs 3.60 per 10 000 AEs; IRR = 0.62; 95% CI: 0.48 to 0.79).

When examining sex-comparable sports (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field), the overall concussion rate was higher in girls than in boys (3.35 vs 1.51 per 10 000 AEs; IRR = 2.22; 95% CI: 2.07 to 2.39; Table 2). This finding was retained when examining specific sex-comparable sport pairs and when restricted to competitions or practices only; however, some IRRs were no longer statistically significant.

TABLE 2

Comparison of Sport-Related Concussion Rates Among High School Athletes During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 Academic Years

SportGirls Versus Boys, IRR (95% CI)
CompetitionPracticeOverall
Basketball 2.94 (2.51 to 3.44)a 1.25 (0.99 to 1.57) 2.28 (2.01 to 2.59)a 
Cross country N/A 1.46 (0.39 to 5.42) 2.33 (0.70 to 7.75) 
Soccer 2.33 (2.08 to 2.62)a 2.06 (1.63 to 2.61)a 2.30 (2.07 to 2.55)a 
Softball or baseball 1.89 (1.45 to 2.45)a 3.05 (2.10 to 4.42)a 2.21 (1.79 to 2.74)a 
Swimming 1.74 (0.52 to 5.78) 1.78 (0.94 to 3.38) 1.77 (1.01 to 3.12)a 
Track and field 1.72 (0.80 to 3.71) 1.61 (0.81 to 3.22) 1.66 (0.995 to 2.78) 
Sex-comparable sports overallb 2.47 (2.26 to 2.70)a 1.73 (1.50 to 1.99)a 2.22 (2.07 to 2.39)a 
SportGirls Versus Boys, IRR (95% CI)
CompetitionPracticeOverall
Basketball 2.94 (2.51 to 3.44)a 1.25 (0.99 to 1.57) 2.28 (2.01 to 2.59)a 
Cross country N/A 1.46 (0.39 to 5.42) 2.33 (0.70 to 7.75) 
Soccer 2.33 (2.08 to 2.62)a 2.06 (1.63 to 2.61)a 2.30 (2.07 to 2.55)a 
Softball or baseball 1.89 (1.45 to 2.45)a 3.05 (2.10 to 4.42)a 2.21 (1.79 to 2.74)a 
Swimming 1.74 (0.52 to 5.78) 1.78 (0.94 to 3.38) 1.77 (1.01 to 3.12)a 
Track and field 1.72 (0.80 to 3.71) 1.61 (0.81 to 3.22) 1.66 (0.995 to 2.78) 
Sex-comparable sports overallb 2.47 (2.26 to 2.70)a 1.73 (1.50 to 1.99)a 2.22 (2.07 to 2.39)a 

N/A, not applicable.

a

Denotes statistical significance (IRR, 95% CI does not include 1.00).

b

Only includes sports in which both sexes participated (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field).

Sufficient evidence of temporal trends across the study period was found only in boys’ football (Fig 1). Whereas the competition rate had increased over time in boys’ football (annual average change of 1.56 per 10 000 AEs; 95% CI: 1.13 to 2.00), the practice rate had decreased (annual average change of −0.28 per 10 000 AEs; 95% CI: −0.37 to −0.18).

FIGURE 1

Annual sport-related concussion rates among high school athletes in 20 sports during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years. A reportable AE was defined as 1 athlete participating in 1 school-sanctioned practice or competition. A, Overall. B, In competitions. C, In practices. D, Among recurrent sport-related concussions.

FIGURE 1

Annual sport-related concussion rates among high school athletes in 20 sports during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years. A reportable AE was defined as 1 athlete participating in 1 school-sanctioned practice or competition. A, Overall. B, In competitions. C, In practices. D, Among recurrent sport-related concussions.

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Of the 3463 practice-related concussions reported, most occurred after the first hour of practice (66.9%; Table 3). Although competition-related concussion data were stratified by sport, larger proportions of concussions were typically reported in the latter half of competitions. Among concussions reported in sports with quarters or halves (ie, boys’ football, lacrosse, soccer, and basketball and girls’ lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, and basketball), 54.5% were reported to have occurred in the second half, or third or fourth quarters compared with 29.4% in the first half, or first or second quarters. Precompetition- and/or warm-up–related concussions accounted for relatively small proportions of all reported concussions in most sports; the 2 exceptions were girls’ volleyball (27.5%) and girls’ softball (26.3%).

TABLE 3

Distributions of Timing of Concussions Within Events Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 Academic Years

SportTime in Eventn (%)
Boys’ football   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 10 (0.4) 
 First quarter 169 (6.7) 
 Second quarter 628 (24.9) 
 Third quarter 694 (27.5) 
 Fourth quarter 672 (26.7) 
 Overtime 10 (0.4) 
 Missing 338 (13.4) 
Boys’ ice hockey   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 
 First period 21 (11.2) 
 Second period 70 (37.4) 
 Third period 60 (32.1) 
 Overtime 1 (0.5) 
 Missing 35 (18.7) 
Boys’ lacrosse   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 2 (0.8) 
 First quarter 19 (7.4) 
 Second quarter 58 (22.7) 
 Third quarter 68 (26.6) 
 Fourth quarter 68 (26.6) 
 Missing 41 (16.0) 
Boys’ wrestling   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 4 (1.4) 
 First period 39 (13.4) 
 Second period 96 (32.9) 
 Third period 71 (24.3) 
 Missing 82 (28.1) 
Boys’ soccer   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 9 (2.1) 
 First half 107 (25.4) 
 Second half 242 (57.5) 
 Overtime 3 (0.7) 
 Missing 60 (14.3) 
Boys’ basketball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 3 (1.3) 
 First quarter 20 (8.9) 
 Second quarter 63 (28.1) 
 Third quarter 56 (25.0) 
 Fourth quarter 47 (21.0) 
 Overtime 
 Missing 35 (15.6) 
Boys’ baseball   
 Pre-competition/warm-ups 2 (2.1) 
 Innings 1–4 43 (44.8) 
 Innings 5–7 24 (25.0) 
 Extra innings 3 (3.1) 
 Missing 24 (25.0) 
Girls’ soccer   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 17 (2.0) 
 First half 228 (26.4) 
 Second half 494 (57.2) 
 Overtime 3 (0.4) 
 Missing 122 (14.1) 
Girls’ basketball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 15 (3.0) 
 First quarter 27 (5.4) 
 Second quarter 109 (21.6) 
 Third quarter 139 (27.6) 
 Fourth quarter 128 (25.4) 
 Overtime 1 (0.2) 
 Missing 85 (16.9) 
Girls’ lacrosse   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 11 (7.2) 
 First half 25 (16.5) 
 Second half 85 (55.9) 
 Missing 31 (20.4) 
Girls’ volleyball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 65 (27.5) 
 First set 5 (2.1) 
 Second set 68 (28.8) 
 Third set 38 (16.1) 
 Fourth set 8 (3.4) 
 Fifth set 3 (1.3) 
 Missing 49 (20.8) 
Girls’ field hockey   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 4 (5.2) 
 First half 22 (28.6) 
 Second half 43 (55.8) 
 Missing 8 (10.4) 
   
Girls’ softball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 35 (26.3) 
 Innings 1–4 40 (30.1) 
 Innings 5–7 30 (22.6) 
 Extra innings 1 (0.8) 
 Missing 27 (20.3) 
All sports practices   
 Within first hour 799 (23.1) 
 1–2 h 2015 (58.2) 
 >2 h 300 (8.7) 
 Missing 349 (10.1) 
SportTime in Eventn (%)
Boys’ football   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 10 (0.4) 
 First quarter 169 (6.7) 
 Second quarter 628 (24.9) 
 Third quarter 694 (27.5) 
 Fourth quarter 672 (26.7) 
 Overtime 10 (0.4) 
 Missing 338 (13.4) 
Boys’ ice hockey   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 
 First period 21 (11.2) 
 Second period 70 (37.4) 
 Third period 60 (32.1) 
 Overtime 1 (0.5) 
 Missing 35 (18.7) 
Boys’ lacrosse   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 2 (0.8) 
 First quarter 19 (7.4) 
 Second quarter 58 (22.7) 
 Third quarter 68 (26.6) 
 Fourth quarter 68 (26.6) 
 Missing 41 (16.0) 
Boys’ wrestling   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 4 (1.4) 
 First period 39 (13.4) 
 Second period 96 (32.9) 
 Third period 71 (24.3) 
 Missing 82 (28.1) 
Boys’ soccer   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 9 (2.1) 
 First half 107 (25.4) 
 Second half 242 (57.5) 
 Overtime 3 (0.7) 
 Missing 60 (14.3) 
Boys’ basketball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 3 (1.3) 
 First quarter 20 (8.9) 
 Second quarter 63 (28.1) 
 Third quarter 56 (25.0) 
 Fourth quarter 47 (21.0) 
 Overtime 
 Missing 35 (15.6) 
Boys’ baseball   
 Pre-competition/warm-ups 2 (2.1) 
 Innings 1–4 43 (44.8) 
 Innings 5–7 24 (25.0) 
 Extra innings 3 (3.1) 
 Missing 24 (25.0) 
Girls’ soccer   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 17 (2.0) 
 First half 228 (26.4) 
 Second half 494 (57.2) 
 Overtime 3 (0.4) 
 Missing 122 (14.1) 
Girls’ basketball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 15 (3.0) 
 First quarter 27 (5.4) 
 Second quarter 109 (21.6) 
 Third quarter 139 (27.6) 
 Fourth quarter 128 (25.4) 
 Overtime 1 (0.2) 
 Missing 85 (16.9) 
Girls’ lacrosse   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 11 (7.2) 
 First half 25 (16.5) 
 Second half 85 (55.9) 
 Missing 31 (20.4) 
Girls’ volleyball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 65 (27.5) 
 First set 5 (2.1) 
 Second set 68 (28.8) 
 Third set 38 (16.1) 
 Fourth set 8 (3.4) 
 Fifth set 3 (1.3) 
 Missing 49 (20.8) 
Girls’ field hockey   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 4 (5.2) 
 First half 22 (28.6) 
 Second half 43 (55.8) 
 Missing 8 (10.4) 
   
Girls’ softball   
 Precompetition or warm-ups 35 (26.3) 
 Innings 1–4 40 (30.1) 
 Innings 5–7 30 (22.6) 
 Extra innings 1 (0.8) 
 Missing 27 (20.3) 
All sports practices   
 Within first hour 799 (23.1) 
 1–2 h 2015 (58.2) 
 >2 h 300 (8.7) 
 Missing 349 (10.1) 

Time-in-competition data were not available for boys’ and girls’ cross country, swimming, and track and field and cheerleading. Whereas time-in-practice data could be pooled, time-in-competition data were provided by sport to account for variations in coding.

Most concussions were due to contact with another person (62.3%), followed by contact with the surface (17.5%) and contact with equipment or an apparatus (15.8%; Table 4). In sex-comparable sports, the proportion of concussions due to contact with another person was higher in boys than in girls (54.5% vs 42.1%; IPR = 1.29; 95% CI: 1.20 to 1.39). In contrast, the proportion of concussions due to contact with equipment or an apparatus was higher in girls than in boys (33.6% vs 23.5%; IPR = 1.43; 95% CI: 1.27 to 1.62). Table 5 summarizes the most sport-specific common injury mechanism, injury activity clusters, and positions with concussions.

TABLE 4

Sport-Related Concussion Counts Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports by Injury Mechanism During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 Academic Years

SportsInjury Mechanism, n (%)Total, n (%)
Contact With Another PersonContact With SurfaceContact With EquipmentOther
Boys-only sports      
 Football 3497 (83.6) 425 (10.2) 32 (0.8) 229 (5.5) 4183 (100.0) 
 Ice hockey 125 (60.1) 51 (24.5) 24 (11.5) 8 (3.8) 208 (100.0) 
 Lacrosse 206 (63.8) 28 (8.7) 78 (24.1) 11 (3.4) 323 (100.0) 
 Wrestling 226 (40.0) 301 (53.3) 9 (1.6) 29 (5.1) 565 (100.0) 
 Soccer 285 (54.0) 69 (13.1) 155 (29.4) 19 (3.6) 528 (100.0) 
 Basketball 247 (65.7) 107 (28.5) 14 (3.7) 8 (2.1) 376 (100.0) 
 Baseball 51 (37.5) 8 (5.9) 74 (54.4) 3 (2.2) 136 (100.0) 
 Swimming 8 (44.4) 7 (38.9) 1 (5.6) 2 (11.1) 18 (100.0) 
 Track and field 12 (48.0) 11 (44.0) 2 (8.0) 25 (100.0) 
 Cross country 1 (25.0) 2 (50.0) 1 (25.0) 4 (100.0) 
Girls-only sports      
 Soccer 417 (39.5) 156 (14.8) 431 (40.9) 51 (4.8) 1055 (100.0) 
 Basketball 358 (55.4) 203 (31.4) 69 (10.7) 16 (2.5) 646 (100.0) 
 Lacrosse 35 (16.7) 18 (8.6) 151 (72.2) 5 (2.4) 209 (100.0) 
 Volleyball 79 (18.7) 105 (24.8) 228 (53.9) 11 (2.6) 423 (100.0) 
 Field hockey 41 (41.4) 11 (11.1) 46 (46.5) 1 (1.0) 99 (100.0) 
 Softball 58 (25.8) 12 (5.3) 150 (66.7) 5 (2.2) 225 (100.0) 
 Swimming 9 (25.0) 16 (44.4) 6 (16.7) 5 (13.9) 36 (100.0) 
 Track and field 2 (5.7) 11 (31.4) 18 (51.4) 4 (11.4) 35 (100.0) 
 Cross country 1 (12.5) 5 (62.5) 2 (25.0) 8 (100.0) 
Coed sports: cheerleadinga 295 (67.0) 127 (28.9) 6 (1.4) 12 (2.7) 440 (100.0) 
Boys’ sex-comparable sports totalb 592 (54.5) 205 (18.9) 255 (23.5) 35 (3.2) 1087 (100.0) 
Girls’ sex-comparable sports totalb 845 (42.1) 403 (20.1) 674 (33.6) 83 (4.1) 2005 (100.0) 
Overall total 5941 (62.3) 1674 (17.5) 1503 (15.8) 424 (4.4) 9542 (100.0) 
SportsInjury Mechanism, n (%)Total, n (%)
Contact With Another PersonContact With SurfaceContact With EquipmentOther
Boys-only sports      
 Football 3497 (83.6) 425 (10.2) 32 (0.8) 229 (5.5) 4183 (100.0) 
 Ice hockey 125 (60.1) 51 (24.5) 24 (11.5) 8 (3.8) 208 (100.0) 
 Lacrosse 206 (63.8) 28 (8.7) 78 (24.1) 11 (3.4) 323 (100.0) 
 Wrestling 226 (40.0) 301 (53.3) 9 (1.6) 29 (5.1) 565 (100.0) 
 Soccer 285 (54.0) 69 (13.1) 155 (29.4) 19 (3.6) 528 (100.0) 
 Basketball 247 (65.7) 107 (28.5) 14 (3.7) 8 (2.1) 376 (100.0) 
 Baseball 51 (37.5) 8 (5.9) 74 (54.4) 3 (2.2) 136 (100.0) 
 Swimming 8 (44.4) 7 (38.9) 1 (5.6) 2 (11.1) 18 (100.0) 
 Track and field 12 (48.0) 11 (44.0) 2 (8.0) 25 (100.0) 
 Cross country 1 (25.0) 2 (50.0) 1 (25.0) 4 (100.0) 
Girls-only sports      
 Soccer 417 (39.5) 156 (14.8) 431 (40.9) 51 (4.8) 1055 (100.0) 
 Basketball 358 (55.4) 203 (31.4) 69 (10.7) 16 (2.5) 646 (100.0) 
 Lacrosse 35 (16.7) 18 (8.6) 151 (72.2) 5 (2.4) 209 (100.0) 
 Volleyball 79 (18.7) 105 (24.8) 228 (53.9) 11 (2.6) 423 (100.0) 
 Field hockey 41 (41.4) 11 (11.1) 46 (46.5) 1 (1.0) 99 (100.0) 
 Softball 58 (25.8) 12 (5.3) 150 (66.7) 5 (2.2) 225 (100.0) 
 Swimming 9 (25.0) 16 (44.4) 6 (16.7) 5 (13.9) 36 (100.0) 
 Track and field 2 (5.7) 11 (31.4) 18 (51.4) 4 (11.4) 35 (100.0) 
 Cross country 1 (12.5) 5 (62.5) 2 (25.0) 8 (100.0) 
Coed sports: cheerleadinga 295 (67.0) 127 (28.9) 6 (1.4) 12 (2.7) 440 (100.0) 
Boys’ sex-comparable sports totalb 592 (54.5) 205 (18.9) 255 (23.5) 35 (3.2) 1087 (100.0) 
Girls’ sex-comparable sports totalb 845 (42.1) 403 (20.1) 674 (33.6) 83 (4.1) 2005 (100.0) 
Overall total 5941 (62.3) 1674 (17.5) 1503 (15.8) 424 (4.4) 9542 (100.0) 
a

Competition category also includes performance events for cheerleading.

b

Only includes sports in which both sexes participated (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field).

TABLE 5

Concussion Injury Mechanism, Activity Combinations, and Positions Among High School Athletes in 20 Sports During the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 Academic Years

SportMost Common Injury Mechanism and Activity Combinationsn (%)Most Common Positionsn (%)
Boys’ football     
 Contact with another person while tackling on a defensive running play 470 (11.2) Linebacker 531 (12.7) 
 Contact with another person while being tackled on an offensive running play 458 (11.0) Running back 489 (11.7) 
Boys’ ice hockey     
 Contact with another person while skating 44 (21.2) Wing 97 (46.6) 
 Contact with another person while being checked 35 (16.8) Defense 51 (24.5) 
   Center 26 (12.5) 
Boys’ lacrosse     
 Contact with another person while being body checked 35 (10.8) Midfielder 111 (34.4) 
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 26 (8.1) Attack 93 (28.8) 
   Defense 73 (22.6) 
Boys’ wrestling     
 Contact with surface during takedown 184 (32.6) — — 
 Contact with another person while sparring 80 (14.2) — — 
 Contact with another person during takedown 77 (13.6) — — 
Boys’ soccer     
 Contact with another person while heading the ball 90 (17.1) Midfield 177 (33.5) 
 Contact with another person during general play 46 (8.7) Defense 103 (19.5) 
   Forward 98 (18.6) 
   Goalkeeper 71 (13.5) 
Boys’ basketball     
 Contact with another person while rebounding 51 (13.6) Guard 167 (44.4) 
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 40 (10.6) Forward 110 (29.3) 
 Contact with another person while defending 39 (10.4) Center 43 (11.4) 
 Contact with another person during general play 38 (10.1)   
Boys’ baseball     
 Contact with another person while fielding a batted ball 17 (12.5) Outfielder 28 (20.6) 
 Hit by pitch while batting 13 (9.6) Baseman 26 (19.1) 
   Catcher 20 (14.7) 
Boys’ swimming     
 Wall contact while turning off the wall 4 (22.2) — — 
 Contact with another person while swimming 3 (16.7) — — 
Boys’ track and field     
 Contact with field equipment while jumping or landing 4 (16.0) Pole vaulter 8 (32.0) 
 Contact with a surface while jumping or landing 4 (16.0)   
Girls’ soccer     
 Ball contact while heading the ball 141 (13.4) Midfield 349 (33.1) 
 Contact with another person while heading the ball 115 (10.9) Defense 231 (21.9) 
   Forward 222 (21.0) 
   Goalkeeper 106 (10.1) 
Girls’ basketball     
 Contact with another person while rebounding 70 (10.8) Guard 314 (48.6) 
 Contact with another person while defending 69 (10.7) Forward 176 (27.2) 
 Contact with another person during general play 67 (10.4)   
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 65 (10.1)   
Girls’ lacrosse     
 Ball contact while defending 21 (10.0) Midfielder 56 (26.8) 
 Ball contact while receiving a pass 16 (7.7) Attack 54 (25.8) 
 Ball contact while goaltending 16 (7.7) Defense 43 (20.6) 
 Ball contact while being stick checked 16 (7.7) Goalkeeper 21 (10.1) 
Girls’ volleyball     
 Contact with a surface while digging 63 (14.9) Outside hitter 98 (23.2) 
 Contact with the ball during general play 59 (13.9) Setter 58 (13.7) 
   Middle blocker 56 (13.2) 
   Libero 55 (13.0) 
Girls’ field hockey     
 Ball contact while defending 18 (18.2) Midfielder 35 (35.4) 
 Contact with another person while handling the ball 13 (13.1) Forward 24 (24.2) 
   Defender 20 (20.2) 
Girls’ softball     
 Hit by a ball while fielding a batted ball 23 (10.2) Outfielder 52 (23.1) 
 Contact with another person while fielding a batted ball 21 (9.3) Baseman 45 (20.0) 
   Catcher 23 (10.2) 
Girls’ swimming     
 Contact with another person while swimming 5 (13.9) — — 
 Wall contact while turning off the wall 5 (13.9) — — 
Girls’ track and field     
 Contact with a surface while running 5 (14.3) Pole vaulter 7 (20.0) 
Cheerleading     
 Contact with another person during a partner stunt 116 (26.4) Base 223 (50.7) 
 Contact with another person during a toss 84 (19.1) Flyer 122 (27.7) 
 Contact with another person during a pyramid 55 (12.5)   
SportMost Common Injury Mechanism and Activity Combinationsn (%)Most Common Positionsn (%)
Boys’ football     
 Contact with another person while tackling on a defensive running play 470 (11.2) Linebacker 531 (12.7) 
 Contact with another person while being tackled on an offensive running play 458 (11.0) Running back 489 (11.7) 
Boys’ ice hockey     
 Contact with another person while skating 44 (21.2) Wing 97 (46.6) 
 Contact with another person while being checked 35 (16.8) Defense 51 (24.5) 
   Center 26 (12.5) 
Boys’ lacrosse     
 Contact with another person while being body checked 35 (10.8) Midfielder 111 (34.4) 
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 26 (8.1) Attack 93 (28.8) 
   Defense 73 (22.6) 
Boys’ wrestling     
 Contact with surface during takedown 184 (32.6) — — 
 Contact with another person while sparring 80 (14.2) — — 
 Contact with another person during takedown 77 (13.6) — — 
Boys’ soccer     
 Contact with another person while heading the ball 90 (17.1) Midfield 177 (33.5) 
 Contact with another person during general play 46 (8.7) Defense 103 (19.5) 
   Forward 98 (18.6) 
   Goalkeeper 71 (13.5) 
Boys’ basketball     
 Contact with another person while rebounding 51 (13.6) Guard 167 (44.4) 
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 40 (10.6) Forward 110 (29.3) 
 Contact with another person while defending 39 (10.4) Center 43 (11.4) 
 Contact with another person during general play 38 (10.1)   
Boys’ baseball     
 Contact with another person while fielding a batted ball 17 (12.5) Outfielder 28 (20.6) 
 Hit by pitch while batting 13 (9.6) Baseman 26 (19.1) 
   Catcher 20 (14.7) 
Boys’ swimming     
 Wall contact while turning off the wall 4 (22.2) — — 
 Contact with another person while swimming 3 (16.7) — — 
Boys’ track and field     
 Contact with field equipment while jumping or landing 4 (16.0) Pole vaulter 8 (32.0) 
 Contact with a surface while jumping or landing 4 (16.0)   
Girls’ soccer     
 Ball contact while heading the ball 141 (13.4) Midfield 349 (33.1) 
 Contact with another person while heading the ball 115 (10.9) Defense 231 (21.9) 
   Forward 222 (21.0) 
   Goalkeeper 106 (10.1) 
Girls’ basketball     
 Contact with another person while rebounding 70 (10.8) Guard 314 (48.6) 
 Contact with another person while defending 69 (10.7) Forward 176 (27.2) 
 Contact with another person during general play 67 (10.4)   
 Contact with another person while chasing a loose ball 65 (10.1)   
Girls’ lacrosse     
 Ball contact while defending 21 (10.0) Midfielder 56 (26.8) 
 Ball contact while receiving a pass 16 (7.7) Attack 54 (25.8) 
 Ball contact while goaltending 16 (7.7) Defense 43 (20.6) 
 Ball contact while being stick checked 16 (7.7) Goalkeeper 21 (10.1) 
Girls’ volleyball     
 Contact with a surface while digging 63 (14.9) Outside hitter 98 (23.2) 
 Contact with the ball during general play 59 (13.9) Setter 58 (13.7) 
   Middle blocker 56 (13.2) 
   Libero 55 (13.0) 
Girls’ field hockey     
 Ball contact while defending 18 (18.2) Midfielder 35 (35.4) 
 Contact with another person while handling the ball 13 (13.1) Forward 24 (24.2) 
   Defender 20 (20.2) 
Girls’ softball     
 Hit by a ball while fielding a batted ball 23 (10.2) Outfielder 52 (23.1) 
 Contact with another person while fielding a batted ball 21 (9.3) Baseman 45 (20.0) 
   Catcher 23 (10.2) 
Girls’ swimming     
 Contact with another person while swimming 5 (13.9) — — 
 Wall contact while turning off the wall 5 (13.9) — — 
Girls’ track and field     
 Contact with a surface while running 5 (14.3) Pole vaulter 7 (20.0) 
Cheerleading     
 Contact with another person during a partner stunt 116 (26.4) Base 223 (50.7) 
 Contact with another person during a toss 84 (19.1) Flyer 122 (27.7) 
 Contact with another person during a pyramid 55 (12.5)   

Boys’ and girls’ cross country were excluded from because of concussion counts <10. —, not applicable.

Overall, 8.3% of reported concussions were recurrent (Fig 2). The sports with the largest proportions of concussions that were recurrent were boys’ ice hockey (14.4%), boys’ lacrosse (12.1%), and girls’ field hockey (12.1%). Among sex-comparable sports, the proportion of concussions that were recurrent was higher in girls than in boys (9.3% vs 6.4%; IPR = 1.44; 95% CI: 1.11 to 1.88). However, the proportion of concussions that were recurrent was higher in baseball than in softball (11.0% vs 4.4%; IPR = 2.48; 95% CI: 1.15 to 5.37).

FIGURE 2

Proportions of sport-related recurrent concussions by sport during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years. a Only includes sports in which both sexes participated (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field).

FIGURE 2

Proportions of sport-related recurrent concussions by sport during the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years. a Only includes sports in which both sexes participated (ie, soccer, basketball, baseball or softball, cross country, swimming, and track and field).

Close modal

Linear trend tests found evidence of decreases in the recurrent concussion rate across the study period (Fig 1). This annual average change was the greatest in boys’ football (annual average change of −0.13 per 10 000 AEs; 95% CI: −0.19 to −0.07). Decreases were also observed in all other sports (annual average change of −0.03 per 10 000 AEs; 95% CI: −0.05 to −0.02).

Understanding concussion incidence and prevention is important given the growing population of high school athletes and rapidly changing field of concussion management.10  Our study updates previous literature on high school sports concussion incidence2,13,14  and provides additional information about emerging trends in incidence. Our study is unable to directly examine the causes of increased concussion risk or the effects of past prevention efforts. Still, because the van Mechelen et al12  sequence of prevention framework emphasizes ongoing monitoring of injury incidence, we believe our findings will benefit clinicians by helping guide future prevention and research directions.

Concussion rates in the current study were generally higher than previous estimates from similar surveillance-based studies using data from other time periods.2,13,14  Likewise, we observed decreasing rates of recurrent concussions. Data from previous studies were generally collected during a period in which mandatory concussion legislation governing high school sports did not exist (such legislation currently exists in all 50 states and the District of Columbia).16  Such legislation has been found to be associated with increased concussion rates (likely due to increased reporting) and decreased recurrent concussion rates (hypothesized to be due to better concussion management that legislation advocated, including mandatory removal from play and requirements associated with return to play).2325  Future research may inform concussion prevention in 2 manners. First, concussion legislation varies by state16 ; future research should identify specific legislative components most strongly associated with changes in concussion incidence to help improve and clarify existing requirements.26  Second, because the reported concussion incidence may be affected by the potential increase in reporting,14,27  continued longitudinal research is needed.

As previously seen in high school sports2,12,13  and other settings,28,29  football maintained the highest observed concussion rate. Although this was likely due to the inherent element of collision in the sport, it is important to consider why football consistently has a concussion rate higher than other sports in which intentional contact is allowed, such as wrestling, boys’ ice hockey, and boys’ lacrosse. Although we found evidence of decreasing practice-related concussion rates in football (possibly due to efforts to limit contact exposure in practices),30,31  there was also evidence of increasing rates in competitions. Thus, concussion prevention efforts in football should target competitions alongside practices. The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates teaching proper tackling and enforcing rules that discourage improper technique.32  Simultaneously, kickoff rule changes at the collegiate level have been found to be associated with reduced concussion rates.33  It is also, unfortunately, possible that decreasing contact exposure may impact skill development and place players at increased injury risk during games. More in-depth examinations for such changes in concussion rates are warranted. Furthermore, policy and rule changes must be evaluated to ensure that they provide their intended outcomes, particularly when introduced from higher levels of play (eg, professional and collegiate) to lower levels.

Finally, it is important to consider that cheerleading was the only sport in which the concussion rate was higher in practice than in competition. Not all states recognize cheerleading as a sport, and cheer squads may practice in less-than-ideal places (eg, hallways and on asphalt)34  and may have less access to medical oversight and coaching support compared with other high school sports. Pediatricians should ensure that youth athletes and their families are aware of the concussion risk associated with their sports of interest. Furthermore, pediatricians working with youth sports organizations should advocate the use of safety measures to help prevent concussions.

Concussion rates were higher among girls than boys in sex-comparable sports. This result was found within multiple sports, although statistical significance was likely not achieved in sports such as cross country and track because of low counts of concussions during the 5-year study period. Findings related to sex differences are prevalent throughout concussion literature,2,13,28,29  and potential associated factors have included differences in disclosure, neck musculature, cerebral blood flow and/or cerebrovascular organization, hormonal regulation, etc.3540  However, few studies have attempted to directly assess these factors in relation to incidence. Also, our study found that the proportions of concussions among sex-comparable sports that were recurrent and due to equipment contact were higher in girls than in boys, which may also contribute to the differences in concussion incidence between the sexes. Research that isolates the specific etiological factors associated with sex differences is needed to assist clinicians in properly highlighting potential preventive factors to reduce concussion incidence.

Approximately 1 in 6 concussions overall were due to contact with equipment or an apparatus. In a recent report from The Aspen Institute,11  large proportions of youth sport coaches were found to not be trained in 6 core competencies, including sport-specific skills and tactics. Although high school athletes may have had experience playing their sports at earlier ages and lower levels of play, they may still lack aspects of skill development and physical literacy. All high school coaches need to be properly educated in their roles to ensure age-appropriate training and gameplay.

In both competition and practice, more concussions were generally reported in the latter segments of each event type, which concurs with previous research.4143  In sports in which contact occurs intentionally or unintentionally, athletes who are more fatigued may be less able to defend themselves and/or be less aware of oncoming collisions. Also, athletes on the opposing team who are fatigued may put other players at risk due to playing with less technical craft.44  Game-officiating and referee-education programs should be adapted to be more sensitive to instances in which fatigue is resulting in reckless play. Primary prevention strategies including monitoring and removing fatigued athletes from play when feasible are recommended.

Despite this finding, we also found that more than one-quarter of competition-related concussions in girls’ volleyball and girls’ softball occurred in precompetition or warm-ups. We were unable to pinpoint the factors associated with these findings. In girls’ volleyball, both teams may warm up on their respective court sides at the same time; thus, players may not pay attention to the actions of the opposing team, which could lead to unintended ball contact when balls were spiked over the net by the opposing team. In response, the National Federation of High School Associations released a rule change in 2018–2019 not allowing balls to be hit over the net during warm-ups.45  In girls’ softball, warm-ups may include numerous balls in motion in various areas of the field at once, which may place athletes at risk for being hit by a ball. Additional exploration of such potential causes and appropriate prevention strategies to reduce risk are needed.

Only data from high schools with ATs were included. Therefore, the findings of this study may not be generalizable to the overall population of high schools, particularly those without ATs.46  Underreporting may have occurred if players chose not to disclose concussion symptoms, thus compromising our ability to fully understand athlete injury histories. Our study also did not provide a working definition of concussion, nor could it account for underreporting and/or misdiagnosis. However, all injuries were assessed and documented by medical professionals who were trained to accurately detect and diagnose injuries. Furthermore, previous research has found ATs to have high agreement with physicians in diagnosing injuries47  and to provide higher-quality data collection compared with nonmedically trained individuals, such as coaches or other players.48  This study was unable to account for factors potentially associated with concussion incidence, such as implemented injury prevention programs and athlete-specific characteristics (eg, maturation status, previous injury history, functional capabilities, etc). Lastly, our study calculated injury rates using AE, which may not be as precise an at-risk exposure measure as minutes or hours, or the total number of game plays across a season.27  HS RIO also does not acquire AE by position or starter status, thereby precluding our ability to calculate more specific injury rates. However, collection of such exposure data is more laborious and may be too burdensome for ATs contributing to HS RIO.

Using surveillance data from the 2013–2014 to 2017–2018 academic years, we found that football remained the high school sport with the highest concussion rate, with decreasing practice concussion rates observed; however, increasing competitions rates highlight the continued need for prevention strategies. Decreasing recurrent concussion rates may be associated with changes in concussion diagnosis and management in high school sport settings, such as those elicited by concussion-based legislation. Future research should also target risk and preventive factors in other sports that allow contact, the role of skill development to reduce equipment-related contact, and strategies to mitigate increased concussion risk in the latter halves of events. Pediatricians should provide such updated information to youth athletes to help them and their families understand the risk of concussion in their sports of interest.

We thank the many ATs who have volunteered their time and efforts to submit data to HS RIO. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and have had a tremendously positive effect on the safety of high school student athletes.

Dr Kerr co-led the conceptualization and design of the study, led analyses and data interpretation, and drafted the initial manuscript; Dr Chandran co-led the conceptualization and design of the study, led analyses and data interpretation, and assisted with the drafting of the manuscript; Ms Nedimyer assisted with the conceptualization and design of the study, assisted with analyses and data interpretation, and assisted with the drafting of the manuscript; Mr Arakkal and Dr Pierpoint assisted in the coordination of data collection, management, analyses, and interpretation and reviewed and revised the manuscript; Dr Zuckerman assisted with the conceptualization and design of the study, assisted with analyses and data interpretation, and reviewed and revised the manuscript; and all authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

FUNDING: This report represents data collection from High School Reporting Information Online. These data were provided by Dr R. Dawn Comstock of the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. High School Reporting Information Online was funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grants R49/CE000674-01 and R49/CE001172-01) and the National Center for Research Resources (award KL2 RR025754). The authors also acknowledge the research funding contributions of the National Federation of High School Associations, National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, DonJoy Orthotics, and EyeBlack. The content of this report is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding organizations.

     
  • AE

    athlete exposure

  •  
  • AT

    athletic trainer

  •  
  • CI

    confidence interval

  •  
  • HS RIO

    High School Reporting Information Online

  •  
  • IPR

    injury proportion ratio

  •  
  • IRR

    injury rate ratio

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Competing Interests

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.