Quick! What's the first high school sport that comes to mind when you hear the word "concussion"? Was it football? Yeah, me too. But according to new research out of Northwestern University, soccer players suffer more head injuries than athletes of any other high school sport. And emale soccer players get concussions more often than their male peers.
"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 authors wrote. "The concussion rate for girls' soccer is also increasing rapidly, and is now...three-fold higher than boys' soccer."
Researchers reviewed a sample of injury data from 2005 to 2015 provided by high school athletic trainers for nine sports: football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, and baseball for boys; soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball for girls. During that time, there were 40,843 reported high school athlete injuries, including 6,399 concussions.
Here's how it all broke down:
In gender-matched sports, girls experienced significantly higher concussion rates than boys. During the years after the enactment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) laws addressing training (2010 to 2015), the concussion rate was higher in girls' soccer than boys' football, and during the 2014-2015 school year, concussions were more common in girls' soccer than any other sport. Boys' baseball and girls' volleyball had the most significant increase in the rate of concussions during the 10-year study period.
The study authors hypothesize that girls face a greater risk of concussions in soccer due to a lack of protective gear, an emphasis on in-game contact, and the practice of hitting the ball with their heads.
"Currently, no TBI laws address sport- or sex-specific differences in concussion occurrence," the authors concluded. "By identifying differences in the proportion and rate of concussions in high school sports, this study may help to inform future work aimed at examining specific risk factors and developing targeted measures to reduce concussion incidences."
To learn more about concussion symptoms and prevention, check out STOPSportsInjuries.org.