When it comes to playing sports, both amateur and professional, the risk of injury comes with the territory. Proper conditioning and wearing protective gear can help mitigate some forms of bodily harm. But aside from the more common strains, cuts and bruises, concussions pose a more serious threat to players of all ages out on the fields.
We analyzed data on sports-related concussions using emergency room injury data from 1998 through 2017, provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (CPSC-NEISS), and found that the number of concussive sports injuries has increased over the last 20 years.
- Soccer-related ER visits ending in concussion diagnoses have roughly quadrupled over the last 20 years. Basketball, football, baseball and softball concussions have also increased significantly over this period.
- The majority of sports-related concussion victims are between the ages of 10 and 15.
- Despite the all-around increase in concussive injuries, the total number of injuries per year has decreased for these popular sports with the exception of soccer, where injuries have increased more than 20%.
An All-Around Rise in Sports-Related Concussions
The gradient chart shows how the number of ER visits due to concussions has changed in the U.S. for popular sports games. Soccer concussions increased by 303% over the last 20-year period. Basketball concussions increased by 191%, football concussions increased by 190%, and softball and baseball concussions increased by 82% and 58%, respectively. The year 2012 was a particularly bad year for concussive injuries in baseball, basketball, football and soccer.
Sports-Related Concussions by Age Group
The gradient mapping breaks down the number of ER visits due to concussions by age group. The most common victims of these injuries are kids between the ages of 10 and 15, accounting for 40% to 54% of the total estimated sports concussions across the country. Teenagers and young adults between the ages of 15 and 20 represent the next-largest age group, accounting for an additional 19% to 29% of sports-related concussions.
How have Overall Sports-Related Injuries Looked?
Interestingly enough, overall sports-related injuries have actually been decreasing over the last 20 years for basketball, football, baseball and softball. Baseball and softball experienced the greatest drops in injuries, decreasing by roughly 46% each over the last 20 years. Basketball-related injuries have decreased by 27% and football-related injuries by 17%. However, the story is different for soccer, where overall injuries have increased by an estimated 26%.
Which Sports Lead in Sports-Related Concussions?
The table here shows the number of estimated annual emergency room visits due to concussive injuries across popular sports and activities.
Annual ER Visits
Recognizing the Signs of a Concussion
It is important to recognize the symptoms of a concussion. Whether or not a player was struck on the head does not matter because collisions and falls can also lead to concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides important information regarding symptoms that are commonly reported when a concussion is present.
- Memory loss after injury
- Dazed or confused
- Loss of coordination
- Slow or slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood swings and behavioral changes
- Headaches and pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or issues with balance
- Double or blurred vision
- Noise and light sensitivity
- Feeling sluggish or foggy
- Confusion, concentration and memory problems
You can read more about brain injury basics here.
We analyzed data on sports-related concussions using emergency room injury data from 1998 through 2017, provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (CPSC-NEISS). Proportion-adjusted estimates, or injury proportions multiplied by the annual mean number of injuries and sampling ratio (total hospitals (~5,534) / sampled hospitals (~100)), were used to estimate total sports-related injury changes over time.