When most of us hear that a local youth athlete suffered a concussion over the weekend we usually assume it was a football player. After all, football is a full contact sport and when two 145 pounds 15 year olds run headfirst into each other it’s not that surprising to hear that one of them came out worse because of it. Obviously we don’t ever want to see any of our kids get hurt but football seems like the kind of sport where concussions are most likely. But what might surprise you is that youth football players aren’t the only ones at risk for suffering a concussion while on the field. Here are some crazy facts about concussions in youth sports:
In 2010, more high school soccer players sustained concussions than did athletes in basketball, baseball, wrestling and softball combined, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio. That puts it in second place behind football for the most dangerous youth sport in terms of concussions. Most of the time concussions in youth and high school soccer are caused when two players go for a header and end up heading each other instead of the ball. Here’s another crazy statistic – female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than males, making soccer the #1 sport most dangerous sports for girls in terms of head injury.
Once again female athletes in basketball suffer from more concussions than their male counterparts, 240% more actually. Concussions in youth basketball can be caused by two players colliding, or after a player falls to the floor and hits their head on the court.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, female cheerleaders make up 50% of the catastrophic head, neck and spine injuries that are suffered by female athletes. Concussion rates for cheerleaders have increased by 26% over 10 years.
Research has shown that there is three times the increased risk of concussion and severe concussion in Pee Wee hockey leagues that allow body checking. This has prompted some youth hockey leagues to ban checking in U-14 divisions. Women’s ice hockey has the highest concussion rate among NCAA athletes.
There is a growing concern that, even with better education and more watchful coaches and athletic trainers, some youth athletes aren’t reporting their symptoms for fear that it will cost them time on the field. Researchers found 32% of high school football players said they had concussion-like symptoms over the last two years, but did not seek medical attention. More than half said they didn’t report it because they were worried it would mean they would lose playing time. While teaching youth athletes to “play through the pain” when the pain is a skinned knee or bruised elbow probably isn’t life threatening, ignoring the long term effects of a concussion can be. Even a seemingly light ding to the head can have serious consequences, especially if a youth athlete gets hit in the head again shortly thereafter.