A study spearheaded by Mason researcher Shane Caswell shows that concussions among high school athletes in Fairfax County, Virginia, have been on the rise at the alarming rate of 16.5 percent per year.
Caswell, director of Mason’s Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing Laboratory, and his colleagues examined injury data from 25 high schools between 1997 and 2008 involving athletes from six boys’ sports—football, lacrosse, wrestling, soccer, basketball, and baseball—and six girls’ sports—field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, cheerleading, and softball.
Besides the annual increase in concussions, the results showed that boys’ sports accounted for three-quarters of all concussions and football topped the list of sports with the highest concussion rates. Girls’ soccer came in a distant second among concussion rates. But, surprisingly, in similar girls’ and boys’ spots, the concussion rate for girls was roughly twice that reported for boys.
The researchers noted in their study that a substantial increase in the concussion rate began in 2005 when Fairfax County high schools increased the hours for athletic trainer coverage. Additional media coverage of concussions in sports also may have led to the reporting of more head injuries, researchers noted.
Caswell’s study is the first of its kind to look at high school sports over a significant period to determine whether concussions are increasing. It was published in the American Journal of Sport Medicine.
—Catherine Probst Ferraro