Spike in Sports-Related Concussions Among High School Girls

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Over the last two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in sports-related concussions (SRC) and closed head injuries (CHI) in female high-school athletes.

National data show that the number of high school female athletes presenting to U.S. emergency departments with SRC or CHI rose from 9,835 in 2000 to 31,751 in 2019. The vast majority of these patients were treated and released (97%).

The five sports and recreational activities most commonly associated with SRC or CHI are soccer (20.6%), basketball (18.5%), cheerleading (10.4%), softball (10.1%) and volleyball (6.5%).

The study was presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting.

The reasons for the uptick in injuries among female high school athletes is likely “multi-factorial, partly related to the increase in sports participation in this particular age-group (14-18) as well as increased concussion awareness and education initiatives,” Dr. Kevin Pirruccio, orthopedic surgery resident at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, and Dr. Robert L. Parisien, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Mount Sinai in New York, said in a joint email to Reuters Heath.

“Another interesting point is that we evaluated data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which provides weighted estimates of athletes presenting to emergency departments in the United States,” they noted.

Many athletes with SRC or CHI do not present to the local emergency department, but are diagnosed and managed by their local medical providers. Therefore, this is likely a “conservative estimate of the true prevalence” of female SRC and CHI in this age group. “However, further study is required to more completely understand the reasons behind this 3-fold increase,” Dr. Pirruccio and Dr. Parisien said.

While the current study focused exclusively on young female athletes, SRC and CHI in male athletes have been “extensively studied, mostly related to football and contact sports, and the data demonstrates a similar increase” in SRC and CHI over this study period, the researchers told Reuters Health.

“We believe our study provides vitally important epidemiologic data to help us understand the national burden of SRC and CHI in high-school-age female athletes,” they added.

“Our hope is that this novel data will drive more comprehensive concussion awareness and education initiatives to aid in more vigilant recognition and reporting of concussive and sub-concussive episodes.”

“This can also be achieved through improved medical infrastructure by increasing the availability of medical professionals during youth and high school-level sporting events. For example, data shows that schools providing athletic trainers during practice and competition may identify up to eight times as many concussions,” Dr. Pirruccio and Dr. Parisien said.

“Furthermore, an athlete’s teammates may be best positioned to identify the signs and symptoms of concussions in their fellow teammates and can help change the concussion reporting culture by speaking up to a parent, coach or team leader when they suspect a teammate is experiencing a concussive event,” they added.

SOURCE: https://www.aaos.org/annual/ American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, presented August 31, 2021.

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