Girls Who Play Soccer Suffer More Concussions Than Football Players


The most dangerous high school sport is played on a field, but it may not be the sport you think.

High school girls who play soccer get more concussions than boys who play football, according to research presented at the American College of Orthopedic Surgeons conference in San Diego.

Credit: Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

In an analysis of injury reports from High School Reporting Information Online (RIO), which collects data from 100 participating U.S. high schools, Michael S. Schallmo of Duke University and colleagues ranked the concussion risk for boys football, boys and girls soccer, girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball, boys wrestling, boys baseball, and girls softball.

After girls soccer, boys football had the second most concussions, followed by girls basketball, boys soccer, girls softball, boys wrestling, boys basketball, girls volleyball and boys baseball, in that order.

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The analysis included the ratio of injuries to concussions.  The rate of concussion was defined as the number of concussions per 10,000 athlete exposures, including games and practice. The numbers were collected from 2005 to 2015.

Credit: K.M. Klemencic/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

In that 10-year span, almost 2.2 million concussions occurred among those 100 high schools.  There are between 700 and 800 students enrolled at any given time at the average-sized U.S. high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“The overall proportion of concussions increased significantly post-TBI [traumatic brain injury] law enactment, even after controlling for athletic-exposures, likely due to health care practitioners, coaches, athletes, and parents becoming more aware of and looking for concussions,” the authors concluded. These findings suggest an association between the passage of state traumatic brain injury laws and concussion incidence.

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Concussion awareness began to sweep America’s high schools beginning in 2010, just as reports of NFL players forever damaged by concussions began to surface. Slowly, states began to enact various laws aimed at educating young athletes about concussions, building a national reporting system, and ultimately reducing their occurrence.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a disease often seen in athletes with a history of concussions and other brain trauma. Credit: Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy

Concussions can be serious and result from blows to the head. Over time, brain damage can be severe and lead to long-term problems. It is especially important that a young athlete who suffers a head injury immediately be assessed and taken out of a game (or practice) if necessary.

“Currently, no TBI laws address sport- or sex-specific differences in concussion occurrence,” the authors reported. “By identifying differences in the proportion and rate of concussions in high school sports, this study may help to inform future work aimed at examining specific risk factors and developing targeted measures to reduce concussion incidences.”

According to Mayo Clinic, signs of concussions include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness, or “seeing stars”
  • Slurred speech
  • Appearing dazed

Sometimes concussion symptoms appear hours or even days after the injury and include memory problems, sensitivity to light, psychological problems, or “disorders of taste and smell,” Mayo Clinic reports.

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