Background: Approximately 300,000 U.S. adolescents sustain concussions annually while participating in organized athletics. This study aimed to track sex and sport-specific trends among high school sports-related concussions over time, to identify whether a particular sport predisposes athletes to a higher risk, and to assess whether traumatic brain injury law enactments have been successful in improving recognition.
Methods: Injury data for academic years 2005 to 2014 were collected from annual reports generated by High School RIO (Reporting Information Online). The relative proportions of total estimated concussions to total estimated injuries were compared using an injury proportion ratio. The concussion rate was defined as the number of concussions per 10,000 athlete exposures (1 athlete participating in 1 practice or competition), with rates compared using a rate ratio. To evaluate the impact of legislation on sports-related concussions in this population, trends in concussion rates and proportions were analyzed before enactment (academic years 2005-2009) and after enactment (academic years 2010-2014).
Results: Between 2005-2006 and 2014-2015, a significant increase (p < 0.0001) in the overall number of concussions for all sports combined, the overall concussion rate (rate ratio, 2.30 [95% confidence interval, 2.04 to 2.59]), and the overall proportion of concussions (injury proportion ratio, 2.68 [95% confidence interval, 2.66 to 2.70]) was seen. Based on the injury proportion ratio, during the 2014-2015 academic year, concussions were more common in girls' soccer than in any other sport (p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Because of potentially devastating consequences, concussion prevention and recognition measures continue to be emphasized in high school contact sports. The data in our study suggest that significant increases in the overall rate and proportion of reported concussions during the past decade could have been affected by traumatic brain injury legislation. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that girls' soccer players may have an even greater risk of sustaining a concussion than all other sports.
Clinical relevance: Sports-related concussions in adolescent athletes can have devastating consequences, and we now know that female athletes, especially girls' soccer players, may be at an even greater risk for sustaining this injury than all other athletes. Knowledge of the trends identified by this study may help lead to policy and prevention measures that can accommodate each sport effectively and potentially halt these trends.