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Concussions Are on the Rise for these Popular Sports

Concussions Are on the Rise for these Popular Sports

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 for some of the country's most popular sports.
Football team member joining the game.
Football team member joining the game. Source: Getty Images

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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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

Sports-related Concussions Over The Last 20 Years

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 of 2012 was a particularly bad year for concussive injuries in baseball, basketball, football and soccer.

Sports-Related Concussions by Age Group

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?

Overall Sports-related Injuries Over the Last 20 Years

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.

RankSportAnnual ER VisitsFemale (%)Male (%)
1Football25,9543.896.2
2Biking15,12725.174.9
3Basketball12,6873367
4Soccer10,93046.253.8
5Baseball4,74013.686.4
6Softball3,02276.623.4
7Ice Hockey2,67812.187.9
8Wrestling2,3244.895.2
9Lacrosse1,66926.973.1
10Volleyball1,4948218
11Ice Skating1,41948.751.3
12Rugby96434.465.6
13Roller Skating87757.742.3
14Gymnastics76671.128.9
15Swimming54559.440.6
16Weight Lifting54333.166.9
17Track And Field47745.654.4
18Golf41629.970.1
19Field Hockey35774.825.2
20Tennis28347.852.2
21Street Hockey25229.370.7
22Badminton17762.537.5
23Handball1665050
24Bowling16252.247.8
25Roller Hockey14538.161.9
26Racquet Ball1384060
27Horseshoes12942.957.1
28Archery55100

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.

Observable Signs

  • Memory loss after injury
  • Dazed or confused
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Mood swings and behavioral changes

Personal Symptoms

  • 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.

Methodology

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.