Female soccer players suffer the highest rate of concussions among all high school athletes in the United States, a new study finds.
“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,” said study author Dr. Wellington Hsu. He is a professor of orthopaedics at Northwestern University in Chicago.
“The new knowledge presented in this study can lead to policy and prevention measures to potentially halt these trends,” Hsu said in a news release from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The researchers analyzed data on nearly 41,000 injuries suffered by high school athletes in nine sports between 2005 and 2015. The injuries included nearly 6,400 concussions. The sports studied included football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball for boys; and soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball for girls. During the study period, participation in the sports rose 1.04-fold, but the number of diagnosed concussions increased 2.2-fold.
In sports played by both girls and boys, girls had much higher concussion rates than boys, Hsu’s team found. Between 2010 and 2015, the concussion rate was higher in girls’ soccer than in boys’ football, the findings showed. During the 2014-2015 school year, concussions were more common in girls’ soccer than in any other sport in the study.
Girls may be at greater risk of concussion while playing soccer due to “heading” the ball, a lack of protective gear, and an emphasis on contact during the game, the researchers suggested.
Each year, about 300,000 U.S. teens suffer concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries while participating in high school sports, the study authors said.
The findings were presented Tuesday at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons meeting in San Diego. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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