For parents that worry about their children sustaining sports concussions, football is usually the first associated with this problem. A new study, Sport- and Gender-specific Trends in the Epidemiology of Concussions Suffered by High School Athletes surprisingly indicates that not football, but girls soccer has the highest per capita rate of concussions and traumatic brain injuries in high school sports.
The study, led by Dr. Wellington Hsu, professor of orthopaedics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, was presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual conference, and found that roughly 27 percent of all injuries suffered by girls soccer players are traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
From the study: To our knowledge, this is the first study to report that concussions now account for a higher proportion of injuries in girls soccer than boys football. The concussion rate for girls soccer is also increasing rapidly, and is now nearly tied with boys football and 3-fold higher than boys soccer.
Technically, the study found that football injuries feature a 24 percent correlation between brain injuries and overall injuries. That percentage is almost identical to the one for girls basketball and the one for boys soccer, with each of those sports approximately one percentage point behind the prior sport on the list.
The study also noted that concussions are apparently on the rise across all sports, with many rates essentially doubling following the introduction of TBI laws.
Part of the reason for the rise in concussions in girl athletes may be an increasingly aggressive style of play. For those of us involved in youth coaching, we have seen more aggressive styles of play lead to collisions and head to head contact.
For youth soccer coaches, teaching a more strategic, thought out, even a more measured, less contact-aggressive style could help limit some of these injuries. Working on strengthening neck muscles, as well focusing on proper techniques for heading the ball should also minimize head injuries. As a coach, the results of this study will alter my approach, as well as some of the drills and exercises we will be using next fall.