Football continues to hog the spotlight when it comes to concussions, but a new report from the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons shows female soccer players are the athletes who face the highest risk for brain injuries.
“While American football has been both scientifically and colloquially associated with the highest concussion rates, our study found that girls, and especially those who play soccer, may face a higher risk,” Wellington Hsu, professor of orthopedics at Northwestern University and lead author of the study, said in a news release. “The new knowledge presented in this study can lead to policy and prevention measures to potentially halt these trends.”
The study indicates that high school girls were, in general, at a “significantly higher” risk for concussions compared to male counterparts. It also suggests soccer players are at particularly high risk due to the lack of protective gear involved in the sport.
The research, presented earlier this month at the AAOS’s annual meeting, used data collected from between 2005 to 2015. The team focused on these years specifically as the years before TBI laws were enacted across the nation (2005-2009), and select years when they were in effect in every state (2010-2015).
The data included injury information from football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, and volleyball. The press release states that athletic trainers recorded 40,843 injuries to high school athletes over the course of the study, including 6,399 concussions.
During this time period, participation rates increased 1.04-fold. But, during that same time span, the rate of diagnosed concussions increased 2.2-fold. Surprisingly, the biggest increases came from baseball and volleyball.
“Overall, the rise in concussion rates reflects the enactment and enforcement of TBI laws throughout the U.S., which have led to greater awareness of concussions by first responders–coaches, parents and athletic trainers–as well as better recognition of symptoms by players and a more open culture of communication within teams and school,” the AAOS release reads.
The introduction of concussion regulations across the nation and increased concussion education seems to be making strides towards protecting the brains of young athletes. But, as this study shows, there is still significant work to be done to keep athletes safe across sports not typically linked to concussions.