This commentary describes the difficulties in studying concussion injury with regards to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics involving data for football players at the youth league, high school, and collegiate levels.
Incidence of Concussion During Practice and Games in Youth, High School, and Collegiate American Football Players
Importance A report by the Institute of Medicine called for comprehensive nationwide concussion incidence data across the spectrum of athletes aged 5 to 23 years.
Objective To describe the incidence of concussion in athletes participating in youth, high school, and collegiate American football.
Design, Setting, and Participants Data were collected by athletic trainers at youth, high school, and collegiate football practices and games to create multiple prospective observational cohorts during the 2012 and 2013 football seasons. Data were collected from July 1, 2012, through January 31, 2013, for the 2012 season and from July 1, 2013, through January 31, 2014, for the 2013 season. The Youth Football Surveillance System included 118 youth football teams, providing 4092 athlete-seasons. The National Athletic Treatment, Injury and Outcomes Network program included 96 secondary school football programs, providing 11 957 athlete-seasons. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance Program included 24 member institutions, providing 4305 athlete-seasons.
Exposures All injuries regardless of severity, including concussions, and athlete exposure information were documented by athletic trainers during practices and games.
Main Outcomes and Measures Injury rates, injury rate ratios, risks, risk ratios, and 95% CIs were calculated.
Results Concussions comprised 9.6%, 4.0%, and 8.0% of all injuries reported in the Youth Football Surveillance System; National Athletic Treatment, Injury and Outcomes Network; and National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance Program, respectively. The game concussion rate was higher than the practice concussion rate across all 3 competitive levels. The game concussion rate for college athletes (3.74 per 1000 athlete exposures) was higher than those for high school athletes (injury rate ratio, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.50-2.31) and youth athletes (injury rate ratio, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.17-2.10). The practice concussion rate in college (0.53 per 1000 athlete exposures) was lower than that in high school (injury rate ratio, 0.80; 95% CI, 0.67-0.96). Youth football had the lowest 1-season concussion risks in 2012 (3.53%) and 2013 (3.13%). The 1-season concussion risk was highest in high school (9.98%) and college (5.54%) in 2012.
Conclusions and Relevance Football practices were a major source of concussion at all 3 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 player-to-player contact and other potentially injurious behaviors.
JAMA Pediatr. 2015;169(7):659-665. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0210