About Concussion

In sport, no injury is cloudier than concussion, and few are as catastrophic. Often though, the identification of concussion does not take place. While cases that involve a loss of consciousness are easily recognized to someone with an untrained eye, subtle concussion cases are not. For years, many people have used the labels bell-ringeror ding to describe the effects of a subtle blow to the head. This has led to the popular assumption that such momentary states of confusion or disorientation are not reasons to be concerned. This, however, is not the case.

No matter the severity, concussion is more than an injury; it is a silent killer. Every year, an estimated 300,000 sport-related concussions occur annually to high school athletes in the United States with high school football players suffering nearly one quarter of those injuries. Concussion is not isolated to football though, and it is also not isolated to boys. By the time their high school playing career is complete, more than 60 percent of all teenage athletes will have experienced some type of concussive injury. These are the known cases. Thousands more go unreported. The prevalence of this injury is so high that for young people aged 15 to 24, concussion is second only to motor vehicle crashes when it comes to traumatic brain injury. In 1990, Dr. M. Goldstein referred to concussion as “a silent epidemic.”Unfortunately, nearly two decades later, Goldstein’s warning still goes unheeded as some young athletes die from their sport-induced concussions.

More Alarming Facts: (courtesy MomsTeam.com):

  • There are between an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year,1, 2 which has led The Centers for Disease Control to conclude that sports concussions in the United States have reached an “epidemic level.”
  •  The Sports Concussion Institute estimates that 10 percent of high school athletes in contact sports suffer a concussion each season.
  • According to the CDC, during 2001-2005 children and youth ages 5-18 years accounted for 2.4 million sports-related emergency department (ED) visits annually, of which 6% (135,000) involved a concussion.
  • For young people ages 15 to 24 years, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury behind only motor vehicle crashes.
  • A 2007 study by researchers at Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio reported in the Winter 2007-2008 Journal of Athletic Training that concussions accounted for 8.9% of all injuries to high school athletes in the nine sports studied (boy’s football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball and girl’s soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball), almost double the 5.5% reported a decade earlier.2
  • Concussion rates are increasing in high school sports. The current rates per 100,000 player games or practices (athletic exposures) are as follows:1
  • 60 for football
  • 35 for girls’ soccer
  • 30 for boys’ lacrosse
  • 20 for girls’ lacrosse
  • 17 for boys’ soccer
  • 17 for wrestling
  • 16 for girls’ basketball
  • 11 for softball
  • 10 for boys’ basketball
  • 10 for field hockey
  • 5 for boys’ and girls’ volleyball
  • 6 for baseball

Football Players are the Most At-Risk: 

  • At least one player sustains a mild concussion in nearly every American football game; 
  • According to research by The New York Times, at least 50 youth football players (high school or younger) from 20 different states have died or sustained serious head injuries on the field since 1997.
  • Anecdotal evidence from athletic trainers suggests that only about 5% of high school players suffer a concussion each season, but formal studies surveying players suggest the number is much higher, with close to 50% saying they have experienced concussion symptoms and fully one-third reporting two or more concussions in a single season.
  • One study estimates that the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion is as high as 20% per season.
  • According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, there were 10 spinal cord injuries in football in 2006; since 1977, at least 269 youth, high school, college and pro players have suffered such injuries.
  • According to a study reported in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine:
  • Football players suffer the most brain injuries of any sport;
  • An unacceptably high percentage (39%) of high school and collegiate football players suffering catastrophic head injuries (death, nonfatal but causing permanent neurologic functional disability, and serious injury but leaving no permanent functional disability) during the period 1989 to 2002 were still playing with neurologic symptoms at the time of the catastrophic event.

Find Out More . . .

To find out more about the management of concussion, please refer to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement on the Management of Sports-Related Concussion. The document can be downloaded from the NATA’s website at: http://www.nata.org/statements/position/concussion.pdf

The Heads-Up Concussion ToolKit is also available free of charge from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.