The Incidence of Concussion in Youth Sports: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Br J Sports Med. 2016 Mar;50(5):292-7. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094978. Epub 2015 Nov 30.


Objective: To conduct a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing the incidence of concussion in youth athletes. Specifically, we estimate the overall risk of concussion in youth sports and compare sport-specific estimates of concussion risk.

Design: Systemic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: A search of Medline, Embase (1980 through September 2014), and SportDiscus (1985 through September 2014) supplemented by manual searches of bibliographies and conference proceedings.

Inclusion criteria: We included studies if they met the inclusion criteria of study design (prospective cohort study), relevant sports identified from the literature (eg, American football, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, soccer/football, basketball, baseball, softball, wrestling, field hockey, track, taekwondo, volleyball and cheerleading), population (males and females ≤18 years old), and outcome (concussion).

Results: Of the 698 studies reviewed for eligibility, 23 articles were accepted for systematic review and 13 of which were included in a meta-analysis. Random effects models were used to pool overall and sport-specific concussion incidence rates per 1000 athlete exposures (AEs). The overall risk of concussion was estimated at 0.23 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.28). The three sports with the highest incidence rates were rugby, hockey and American football at 4.18, 1.20 and 0.53, respectively. Lowest incidence rates per 1000 AEs occurred in volleyball, baseball and cheerleading at 0.03, 0.06 and 0.07, respectively. Quality of the included studies varied, with the majority of studies not reporting age and gender-specific incidence rates or an operational definition for concussion.

Conclusions: There are striking differences in the rates of incident youth concussion across 12 sports. This systematic review and meta-analysis can serve as the current sport-specific baseline risk of concussion among youth athletes.

Keywords: Adolescent; Athlete; Concussion; Sports; Young.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Baseball
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Volleyball
  • Youth Sports*