Background: The incidence of sport-related concussion (SRC) in high school football is well documented. However, limited prospective data are available regarding how player characteristics and protective equipment affect the incidence of SRC.
Purpose: To determine whether the type of protective equipment (helmet and mouth guard) and player characteristics affect the incidence of SRC in high school football players.
Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.
Methods: Certified athletic trainers (ATs) at each high school recorded the type of helmet worn (brand, model, purchase year, and recondition status) by each player as well as information regarding players' demographics, type of mouth guard used, and history of SRC. The ATs also recorded the incidence and days lost from participation for each SRC. Incidence of SRC was compared for various helmets, type of mouth guard, history of SRC, and player demographics.
Results: A total of 2081 players (grades 9-12) enrolled during the 2012 and/or 2013 football seasons (2287 player-seasons) and participated in 134,437 football (practice or competition) exposures. Of these players, 206 (9%) sustained a total of 211 SRCs (1.56/1000 exposures). There was no difference in the incidence of SRC (number of helmets, % SRC [95% CI]) for players wearing Riddell (1171, 9.1% [7.6%-11.0%]), Schutt (680, 8.7% [6.7%-11.1%]), or Xenith (436, 9.2% [6.7%-12.4%]) helmets. Helmet age and recondition status did not affect the incidence of SRC. The rate of SRC (hazard ratio [HR]) was higher in players who wore a custom mouth guard (HR = 1.69 [95% CI, 1.20-2.37], P < .001) than in players who wore a generic mouth guard. The rate of SRC was also higher (HR = 1.96 [95% CI, 1.40-2.73], P < .001) in players who had sustained an SRC within the previous 12 months (15.1% of the 259 players [95% CI, 11.0%-20.1%]) than in players without a previous SRC (8.2% of the 2028 players [95% CI, 7.1%-9.5%]).
Conclusion: Incidence of SRC was similar regardless of the helmet brand (manufacturer) worn by high school football players. Players who had sustained an SRC within the previous 12 months were more likely to sustain an SRC than were players without a history of SRC. Sports medicine providers who work with high school football players need to realize that factors other than the type of protective equipment worn affect the risk of SRC in high school players.
Keywords: concussion; football helmet; high school.
© 2014 The Author(s).