teenage football players
Children's Health

Football-Related Concussions Much More Common Than Thought Among Kids 5 - 14

Concussions among football players age 5 to 14 are higher than previously reported. Five out of every                      100 kids who were monitored suffered a football-related concussion, according to new research.

The study, by investigators from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and University of Washington Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute, was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

For the study, the research teams collected data during two 10-week fall seasons in partnership with the Northwest Junior Football League (NJFL). Licensed athletic trainers from Seattle Children’s treated and recorded concussion from the sidelines at NJFL games to allow researchers to characterize concussions in this age group – from how often players sustained a head injury to factors that influenced their risk of injury.

boy-with-concussion

“Measuring the incidence of concussion in grade-school and middle-school football players is essential to improving the safety of the game,” said Dr. Sara Chrisman, an investigator in the research institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development and lead author on the study. “It’s hard to determine the impact of prevention efforts if we don’t know how often these injuries occur at baseline.”

Part of the reason prior studies may have underestimated the incidence of concussion in youth football by as much as 4% is because they relied on incomplete injury reports from team managers, coaches or other data sources. Despite an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that athletic trainers provide medical coverage for youth football, the use of athletic trainers is not as prevalent in grade-school and middle-school football leagues. It is likely that some youth with concussion in this age group go undiagnosed in the absence of a medical professional on the sidelines.

Almost half the injuries occurred from head-to-head contact.

To provide a more accurate snapshot of concussion incidence, the current study provided licensed athletic trainers for medical surveillance at all NJFL league games and practices during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The athletic trainers helped researchers identify 51 football-related concussions among the 863 youth they followed as part of the study, with 133 of those players participating in the study for two seasons.

In addition to reporting on concussion incidence, researchers found two-thirds of concussions occurred during games, almost half from head-to-head contact. Follow-up surveys found a history of prior concussion was associated with a two-fold greater risk of concussion, and a history of depression was associated with a five-fold greater risk of concussion.

“We’re just starting to piece together how factors such as prior injury or depression may contribute to a child’s risk of concussion. Our study revealed patterns about who was most at risk for concussion, and these are areas we hope to explore in future studies,” said Chrisman, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Researchers found most youths returned to school within a few days, but half took longer than 13 days to return to the sport and longer than three weeks to return to their baseline condition before the injury.

 

 

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