Research of the Week: High School Sports Concussions.

August 20, 2011

Concussions appear to continue to rise. Is it due to an increase in incidence or is it due to an increase in awareness? This study was conducted over an 11 year period in the Fairfax County School District in Falls Church, Virginia. The authors note that the numbers saw significant increases over the course of the study, but they do not attribute that to anything in particular.

The researchers conducted an 11 year study in a large school district with a certified athletic trainer onsite for games and practices. Each school had 2 part-time athletic trainers from 1997-2005 and then a minimum of one full-time athletic trainer and one part-time athletic trainer after that.

A common occurrence is that football was the leading sport for concussion incidence. I think this fairly well-known at this point and no surprise. Girls’ soccer was #2 on the list which also should not be a great surprise. One result I found interesting in this study was its conclusion that in sports where the male and female games were similar in equipment and rules, females had a higher incidence of concussions than their male counterparts. One exception to this conclusion is lacrosse because the rules and equipment are different between the two.

This study also highlights the incidence of concussions in sports being 0.24 per 1000 athlete-exposures. Most people would probably expect that this number would be much greater and it might be overall, but this shows sports are still safe enough for our youth athletes. The study found that boys made up 53% of the athlete-exposures but 75% of the concussions recorded. This can easily be attributed to sports like football, wrestling, and lacrosse.

The rate of concussions was also found to increase at a rate of approximately 15% annually. Again, this could be due to a host of causes including the increased awareness.

This study leaves room for more exploration and this will come as the concussion story continues. We look forward for this research to continue.

Lincoln, AE., Caswell, SV., Almquist, JL., Dunn, RE., Norris, JB., & Hinton RY. (2011). Trends in concussion incidence in high school sports. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(5), 958-963.

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