This week the National Academy of Sciences released a report entitled "Sports-Related Concussions in Youth." What made headlines was the fact that high school football players experience concussions at a rate of 11.2 concussions per 1,000 athletic exposures, which would include practices and games.
This rate was much higher than the rate for college football players which was 6.3 per 1000 athletic exposures.
As the incident rate of concussions at all levels of football remains a hot topic, what gets lost in these studies is the fact that the other sports which involve athletes running around a field or court at high rates of speed also have rates of concussion which are statistically similar to that of football.
If America is alarmed at high school and college football players suffering concussions at a rate of between 6.3 and 11.2, we should be equally concerned about the rate of concussions for other high school sports as found by the National Academy of Sciences:
- 6.9 Boys Lacrosse
- 6.7 Girls Soccer
- 6.2 Wrestling
- 5.6 Girls Basketball
- 5.4 Boys Hockey
- 5.2 Girls Lacrosse
- 4.2 Boys Soccer
The first thing to take from this study is that in all sports where strength, speed and aggression are encouraged or required, the risk of concussion will always exist. I suspect some of the reasons for the higher rates of concussion over the last 20 years in high school sports results from heightened awareness, education and recognition of the signs and symptoms of concussion.
The good news now is likely that our kids are not suffering concussions at any higher rate than in the past, but most concussions are now getting reported and treated, and the risk of more serious injury is being reduced.
Prevention of concussions in these types of athletic contests is impossible, short of eliminating sports. The best we can hope for is to educate parents and players to the risks of concussion, so participation in sports is with eyes wide open.
States are now mandating concussion training for all high school coaches. Many youth sports organizations are taking the lead and requiring all coaches to complete concussion training offered by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Parents should reach a comfort level with their children's coaches in these sports that their coaches at least have a basic understanding of how to spot the possibility of a concussion and not expose their child to further injury.
The fact that injuries occur in sports is not new. What has improved is the general public's understanding and opinion as to how to handle these injuries.
The more we learn about concussions, the better off all athletes will be.