By Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD
The journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics just published a fascinating examination of emergency room visits for concussions from 2001 to 2005 in 100 US hospitals among kids aged 8 to 19. The authors were particularly interested in examining the role of sports in concussion-related ER visits.
– Of 502,784 concussions among 8-19 years old, 50% were sports related injuries.
– Among pre-high school kids (8-13 y old), 58% of all concussions were sports related.
– Among high school kids (14-19y old), 46% of concussions were sports related.
Which sports sends the most kids to the hospital for concussions?
Here is a graph showing the % of all sports related concussions accounted by each sport/activity for8-13 year old kids:
As you can see above, for kids age 8-13, cycling accounted for the highest percentage of sports related concussions (18%), football was a close second, accounting for about 10% of all sports related brain injuries.
Now here is the same graph for older teens (14 to 19 years old):
In older teens, football is, by far, responsible for more concussions than any other activity or sport: football accounted for close to 40% of all sports related concussions. Basketball and Soccer each accounted for over 10% of sports related concussions. In contrast, cycling accounted for just over 5% of concussions among these older kids.
Whats a parent to do?
So the graphics presented above tell us which sports and activities are sending the most people to the hospital, but not necessarily which sport/activity is the most dangerous in terms of the probability of injury to the participants.
What would I do? I would likely minimize (but not forbid) cycling in my kids until they are 13, and I would enforce a no exceptions helmets on at all times policy when they ride their bikes. If my kid decides he wants to play football, I would enforce a 1-2 concussion limit, because the danger of a catastrophic event (e.g., second impact syndrome) increases dramatically after you experience a concussion. Here is a wonderful website about youth sports concussion by the CDC.
Bakhos, L., Lockhart, G., Myers, R., & Linakis, J. (2010). Emergency Department Visits for Concussion in Young Child Athletes PEDIATRICS, 126 (3) DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3101