Mechanisms of team-sport-related brain injuries in children 5 to 19 years old: opportunities for prevention

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58868. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058868. Epub 2013 Mar 28.


Background: There is a gap in knowledge about the mechanisms of sports-related brain injuries. The objective of this study was to determine the mechanisms of brain injuries among children and youth participating in team sports.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective case series of brain injuries suffered by children participating in team sports. The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) database was searched for brain injury cases among 5-19 year-olds playing ice hockey, soccer, American football (football), basketball, baseball, or rugby between 1990 and 2009. Mechanisms of injury were classified as "struck by player," "struck by object," "struck by sport implement," "struck surface," and "other." A descriptive analysis was performed.

Results: There were 12,799 brain injuries related to six team sports (16.2% of all brain injuries registered in CHIRPP). Males represented 81% of injuries and the mean age was 13.2 years. Ice hockey accounted for the greatest number of brain injuries (44.3%), followed by soccer (19.0%) and football (12.9%). In ice hockey, rugby, and basketball, striking another player was the most common injury mechanism. Football, basketball, and soccer also demonstrated high proportions of injuries due to contact with an object (e.g., post) among younger players. In baseball, a common mechanism in the 5-9 year-old group was being hit with a bat as a result of standing too close to the batter (26.1% males, 28.3% females).

Interpretation: Many sports-related brain injury mechanisms are preventable. The results suggest that further efforts aimed at universal rule changes, safer playing environments, and the education of coaches, players, and parents should be targeted in maximizing prevention of sport-related brain injury using a multifaceted approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Injuries / etiology*
  • Brain Injuries / prevention & control
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Sports
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult