8 facts about concussion risks and longer recoveries

Are athletes in certain sports more likely to suffer concussions? What about younger athletes? Girls versus boys? And what signs can indicate a concussion will keep an athlete out of sports longer?Football concussion

In this post, I won’t preach about education of coaches and athletes on the dangers of concussions or advocate for baseline testing. Instead, this post offers statistics and conclusions from copious research into concussions in sports, based on a review article recently published in the journal Sports Health.

Incidence of concussions in sports
• Concussions comprise 8.9% of high school sports injuries and 5.8% of college sports injuries in the United States.

Also read:
Should parents buy newer, high-tech football helmets?
Would eliminating dirty play decrease injuries in youth sports?

Risks for concussions
• Athletes with a prior history of concussion have a much higher concussion rate for a repeat concussion. As the number of prior concussions increases, the higher the risk of repeat concussions increases.
• Younger athletes might have a higher risk of concussions. For example, high school football players have an increased concussion rate compared to college players. Much more research is needed to show a definitive link, though.
• Female athletes have a higher risk of concussion than male athletes. Overall numbers of concussions might be higher for male athletes. However, when you compare male and female sports, like girls’ and boys’ soccer, the female sports have higher rates of concussions.

Risks for longer recoveries from concussions
• Several factors indicate prolonged return to play – loss of consciousness, headaches lasting longer than three hours, amnesia (loss of memory), memory difficulties, confusion, and overall greater number of symptoms.
• A history of multiple prior concussions is associated with a longer recovery.Soccer concussion
• Younger athletes tend to have longer recovery periods. For example, high school football players take longer to return to baseline neurocognitive levels than college players do.
• Female athletes tend to demonstrate more cognitive issues and a higher number of symptoms than males. Therefore female athletes might have longer recoveries from concussions generally.

Also read:
Are soccer headers equal to punches to the head?
Does fear of getting benched keep players from reporting concussions?

I could make suggestions for athletes based on each one of these findings. The take home message I would stress, though, is that athletes need to take all concussions seriously. With a history of prior concussions leading to increased risk for future ones and longer recoveries from them, all athletes need to ensure they have fully recovered prior to returning to sports. You should be examined by a neurologist or other concussion specialist to help determine when it is safe for you to return.

Do you have any thoughts on these findings? Do you have any other risk factors for longer recovery or concussions in general you would like to share? Let me know your thoughts!

Scopaz KA, Hatzenbuehler JR. Risk modifiers for concussion and prolonged recovery. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Published online ahead of print January 17, 2013.