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Concussion Statistics for High School Sports

Account for 13.2% of injuries; concussion rates double in decade

Concussion rate doubled in decade

  • There are between an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year.[1,2,24]
  • Reducing the incidence of concussion in sports has become a public health priority.[15]
  • High school athletes sustain an estimated 136,000[3] to 300,000 concussions per year.[10] 
  • Athletes ages 16 to 19 sustain 29% of all sports-related concussions.[25]
  • A 2011 study [8] of U.S. high schools with at least one certified athletic trainer (AT) on staff found that concussions accounted for nearly 15% of all sports-related injuries reported to ATs and which resulted in a loss of at least one day of play. 
  • Another 2011 study [4] reported that, for all athletes, concussion rates in high school athletics have increased by 16% annually from the 1997-1998 to 2007-2008 academic years, possibly resulting from an increase in injury or diagnosis.
  • A 2012 paper presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting [19] suggests that high schools with ATs have concussion rates much higher than those that don't (8 times higher in girl's soccer and 4.5 times higher in girls' basketball). Again, the reason for such higher concussion rates may be due to the fact that athletic trainers are better able to spot the often subtle signs of concussions.
  • Nearly a third of patients at two leading sports concussion clinics reported having previously suffered a concussion which went undiagnosed.[30] The rate of previously undiagnosed concussions was slightly lower than the nearly 50% reported in a 2004 study.[15]
  • A 2012 study [10] of 20 high school sports reported that concussions accounted for 13.2% of all injuries in the sports studied, two thirds (66.6%) of which occurred during competition and one-third (33.4%) during practice.  
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), [12] an estimated 2.7 million children aged ≤19 years were treated annually in emergency departments (EDs) for sports and recreation-related injuries during 2001-2009. Approximately 6.5%, or 173,285, of these injuries, were traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussion. 
  • During the same period, the estimated number of sports and recreation-related TBI visits to EDs increased 62%, from 153,375 to 248,418, with the highest rates among males aged 10-19 years. The rate of TBI visits also increased 57% from 153,375 to 248,418 during 2001-2009. The authors of the CDC report speculated that the increases were likely due to increased awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of TBI.
  • The number of emergency department (ED) visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) has risen over the past ten years, but the percentage of admissions has remained unchanged at about 10%, reports a 2013 study.[29] The study also reported a trend towards admitting children with less severe TBI, which experts speculate may be the result of a greater emphasis on in-patient observation to watch for signs of a serious brain injury and less reliance on the routine use of CT and MRI scans and parents to observe their children for such signs at home.
    • The percentage of those patients diagnosed with concussion was similar in the ED and hospital admission groups, accounting for 46.9% and 49.7% of the totals, respectively;
    • For children seen in the ED and discharged, the sports most commonly associated with TBI were:
      • Football (29.1%);
      • Soccer (16.5%); and
      • Basketball (15.4%)
    • For admitted patients, the most common sports were:
      • Football (24.7%)
      • Skateboarding/roller blading (16.1%); and
      • Baseball/softball (12.9%).
  • For young people ages 15 to 24 years, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury behind only motor vehicle crashes. [3,13]  [Editor's note: the study on which this statistic is based is 17 years old and based on data from 1991, so it may be outdated].

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