A slight majority of the concussions that occur in youth football take place during games while more concussions at the high school and college level occur during practice, according to a new study published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.
Dr. Thomas P. Dompier of the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention Inc. in Indianapolis and coauthors used data collected as part of three large injury surveillance systems: the Youth Football Surveillance System included 118 youth football teams, providing 4,092 athlete seasons (one player participating in one season); the National Athletic Treatment, Injury and Outcomes Network included 96 secondary school football programs, providing 11,957 athlete-seasons; and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance Program included 24 member institutions, providing 4,305 athlete-seasons.
The study found that during the 2012 and 2013 seasons there were 1,198 concussions reported with 141 (11.8 percent) of them in youth athletes, 795 (66.4 percent) in high school athletes and 262 (21.9 percent) in college athletes.
The results indicate 53.9 percent of concussions occurred during youth football games but in high school and college more concussions (57.7 percent and 57.6 percent, respectively) happened during practice.
No concussions were reported in youth football players who were ages 5 to 7 years, although the young players accounted for more than 7,000 athlete exposures (one player participating in one game or one practice).
In games, the college concussion rate (3.74 per 1,000 athlete exposures) was higher than those reported in high school (2.01 per 1,000 athlete exposures) and youth athletes (2.38 per 1,000 athlete exposures). In practice, the college concussion rate (0.53 per 1,000 athlete exposures) was lower than that in high school (0.66 per 1,000 athlete exposures), according to the study.
Youth football had the lowest one-season concussion risks in 2012 (3.53 percent) and 2013 (3.13 percent). The one-season concussion risk was highest in high school (9.98 percent) and college (5.54 percent) in 2012.
The study concludes: “The rate of concussion in youth players was generally not different from those in high school and college players compared with other injuries. However, football practices were a major source of concussion at all three levels of competition. Concussions during practice might be mitigated and should prompt an evaluation of technique and head impact exposure. Although it is more difficult to change the intensity or conditions of a game, many strategies can be used during practice to limit play-to-player contact and other potentially injurious behaviors."
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