Young athletes may face a risk of concussion more often than expected.
A new study found that concussions were most likely to occur during actual tackle football games, but practices also resulted in concussions among youth, high school and college athletes.
The authors of this study noted that although it may be more difficult to control game conditions, injury prevention strategies might decrease injuries in practice.
"The rate of concussion in youth players was generally not different from those in high school and college players compared with other injuries," these researchers wrote. "However, football practices were a major source of concussion at all three levels of competition."
Thomas P. Dompier, PhD, of the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention Inc., in Indianapolis, IN, led this study of more than 3,000 youth, high school and college football players.
A concussion is a serious injury. Even what seems like a minor bump, blow or jolt to the head can cause a brain injury. Body blows can also cause concussions. The damage is caused by the brain’s movement within the skull.
Dr. Dompier and team used data from three large injury surveillance systems. The data included information about youth players as young as 5 and college players up to age 23.
Patients in these studies reported 1,198 concussions. The majority — 66.5 percent — occurred in high school players.
Youth football games were the setting for 53.9 percent of concussions in that age group. No concussions occurred in youth players aged 5 to 7.
Dr. Dompier and colleagues noted, however, that practice was still a significant source of concussions for youth players. They said the lower rate for this age group might be because youth players had less practice time than high school or college players.
Among high school players, 57.7 percent of reported concussions occurred during practice. Among college players, that figure was 57.6 percent. College players were more likely to sustain concussions than youth or high school players, Dr. Dompier and colleagues found.
Coaches and players may have more control over practice sessions than over games, Dr. Dompier and team noted. These researchers called for new strategies to limit player-to-player contact during practice.
This study was published May 4 in JAMA Pediatrics.
USA Football, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation, BioCrossroads in partnership with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership Foundation and the National Collegiate Athletic Association funded this research.
Study author Dr. Brian Hainline said he was the chief medical officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.