Concussion rates reported to be higher for girls during high school sport competitions

Whilst conducting a surveillance-based study focusing on 20 high school sports, researchers discovered that for sex-comparable sports concussion rates were higher for girls when compared with boys.

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A study published in Pediatrics reported that while overall concussion rates in high school football have decreased over that past 5 years, concussion rates during competitions have increased, highlighting the need for prevention strategies.

A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina (NC, USA), in collaboration with teams from the University of Colorado (CO, USA) and the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (TN, USA), conducted a surveillance-based study that investigated concussion rates for 20 high school sports using athletic trainers’ reports from 2013 to 2018.

A total of 9542 concussions were reported during that time period and the team discovered that 64% occurred during competition and the rest during practice.

          Pediatricians should ensure that youth athletes and their families are aware of the concussion risk associated with their sports of interest,” study authors wrote. “Further, pediatricians working with youth sports organizations should advocate the use of safety measures to help prevent concussions.”

Boys American football was found to have the highest rate of concussion; however, this was closely followed by girls’ soccer. 

The sports with the highest concussion rates:

  • Boys’ football with 10.4 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Girls’ soccer with 8.19 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Boys’ ice hockey with 7.69 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Boys’ lacrosse with 4.92 per 10,000 athletic exposures

The sports with the lowest concussion rates:

  • Boys’ cross country with 0.06 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Girls’ cross country with 0.13 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Boys’ track and field with 0.17 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Girls’ track and field with 0.29 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Boys’ swimming with 0.37 per 10,000 athletic exposures
  • Girls’ swimming with 0.66 per 10,000 athletic exposures 

NOTE: For every athlete, one practice or competition is counted as one exposure.

Among sex-comparable sports, concussion rates were higher in girls compared with boys (3.35 vs 1.51 per 10,000 athletic exposures). Furthermore, girls had a larger proportion of concussions that were recurrent than boys did.

The findings from this study demonstrates how the type of sport and sex differences should be taken into consideration when implementing state laws that govern when an athlete can return to play. Future research is required to monitor trends and examine the effectiveness of preventative methods and safety measures.

Sources: Kerr ZY, Chandran A, Nedimyer AK, Arakkal A, Pierpoint LA and Zuckerman SL. Concussion Incidence and trends in 20 high school sports. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-2180 (2019) (Epub ahead of print);

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Kimberley Ndungu

Editor, Concussion Zone

I am the Editor of Concussion Zone, so feel free to get in contact if you have any queries or comments.

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