Concussion rates among football players ages 5-14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or 5%, sustaining a football-related concussion each season, suggests new research from Seattle Children’s Research Institute and UW Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute.
Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study summarizes the research team’s key findings from data collected 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.
“Measuring the incidence of concussion in grade-school and middle-school football players is essential to improving the safety of the game,” says Dr Sara Chrisman, an investigator in the research institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development and lead author on the study, in a media release. “It’s hard to determine the impact of prevention efforts if we don’t know how often these injuries occur at baseline.”
In the study, licensed athletic trainers were provided to perform 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,” adds Chrisman, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Most youth returned to school within a few days, but half took longer than 13 days to return to sport and longer than 3 weeks to return to baseline symptoms.
Led by Dr Frederick Rivara, the director of the Seattle Pediatric Concussion Research Collaborative and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, the NJFL study is one of several studies underway at Seattle Children’s dedicated to improving understanding of youth concussion and finding better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it, according to the release.
“This study lays the groundwork for new efforts to prevent head injuries in youth football,” says Chrisman, who also leads research using pre-game safety huddles to promote safe play. “Making sports safer for youth is at the core of our research.”
[Source(s): Seattle Children’s Hospital, Newswise]