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Sports Head and Neck Injury Statistics

Not surprisingly, football had the most head and neck injuries of any team sport during the period:

Sport

Level

Deaths

Permanent Disabilities

Serious Injuries

Football

High School

College

61

5

147

21

166

62

Ice Hockey

High School

2

0

4

4

5

3

Wrestling

High School

College

2

0

20

1

11

2

Cheerleading

High School

College

1

1

7

5

10

10

Track & Field (Pole vault, discus, javelin, shot put)

High School

College

16

2

10

2

13

3

Gymnastics

High School

College

1

0

7

5

4

1

The statistics, however, are somewhat misleading. Some sports, like cheerleading, are experiencing more head and neck injuries as stunts have gotten more dangerous. Football, on the other hand, is experiencing fewer serious head injuries: fatalities at all levels peaked at 36 in 1968 (at a time when coaches still taught players to block and tackle leading with their heads, leaving 25-30 players a year paralyzed). With the banning of "spearing" in 1976 and the introduction of safer helmets, the number of injuries were down: in 1997, only seven high school players and one college player were paralyzed.

Nevertheless, in another recent study recording brain trauma in more than 1,200 high school athletes over a three-year period, football accounted for the greatest percentage of injuries, by far:

  • Football - 63%

  • Wrestling - 10%

  • Girls� Soccer - 6%

  • Girls� Basketball - 5%

  • Boys� Basketball - 4%

  • Softball - 2%

  • Baseball and Field Hockey - 1%

  • Volleyball - less than 1%?

A third study of 400 college football players revealed that 34 percent had suffered at least one concussion. Those who suffered only one concussion suffered no long term mental impairment. However, those suffering two or more concussions scored worse on tests measuring memory, learning ability, information processing and other functions.

Sources: National Center For Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, Journal of the American Medical Association.

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