Context: An estimated 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries, predominantly concussions, occur annually in the United States. Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people aged 15 to 24 years.
Objective: To investigate the epidemiology of concussions in a nationally representative sample of high school athletes and to compare rates of concussion among high school and collegiate athletes.
Design: Descriptive epidemiologic study.
Setting: 100 United States high schools and 180 US colleges.
Patients or other participants: United States high school and collegiate athletes.
Main outcome measure(s): Data from 2 injury surveillance systems, High School Reporting Information Online (RIO) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, were analyzed to calculate rates, describe patterns, and evaluate potential risk factors for sport-related concussion.
Results: Concussions represented 8.9% (n = 396) of all high school athletic injuries and 5.8% (n = 482) of all collegiate athletic injuries. Among both groups, rates of concussions were highest in the sports of football and soccer. In high school sports played by both sexes, girls sustained a higher rate of concussions, and concussions represented a greater proportion of total injuries than in boys. In all sports, collegiate athletes had higher rates of concussion than high school athletes, but concussions represented a greater proportion of all injuries among high school athletes.
Conclusions: Sport-related injury surveillance systems can provide scientific data to drive targeted injury-prevention projects. Developing effective sport-related concussion preventive measures depends upon increasing our knowledge of concussion rates, patterns, and risk factors.
Keywords: epidemiology; injury surveillance; sex differences; traumatic brain injury.