Each year nearly 2 million kids in the United States are affected by recreation- and sports-related concussions. Concussions are a significant concern for parents, but data on concussion risk for younger kids in contact sports like football is lacking. This data gap has forced previous studies to rely on incomplete concussion injury reports. Without a full picture of concussion rates and mechanisms involved, it’s harder to develop effective strategies to improve safety in youth contact sports.
We partnered with the Northwest Junior Football League and Seattle Children’s Research Institute to collect concussion data during three 10-week youth football seasons. Licensed athletic trainers from Seattle Children’s treated and recorded concussions at all league games and practices during the 2016-2018 seasons, giving researchers the ability to characterize both the number of injuries and factors that influenced risk. When players sustained a concussion, researchers contacted them weekly to determine how long their recovery took.
This data led to new research and an initial publication in The Journal of Pediatrics which found concussion rates among football players ages 5 to 14 were higher than previously reported, with 5 percent of athletes sustaining a football-related concussion each season. A history of prior concussion was associated with a twofold greater risk of concussion, and a history of depression was associated with a fivefold greater risk of concussion. Most kids were back to school within a week, but took 2-3 weeks to return to a preinjury level of symptoms.
This study will serve as a launch point for additional efforts to better understand concussions and to find effective ways to make sports safer.