COLUMBUS, Ohio Concussion rates in U.S. high-school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, according to a new national study using data on nine team sports.
Overall, the rate increased from .23 to .51 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in one competition or practice.
The increase might appear to sound an alarm about sports safety, but the researchers suspect the upward trend in reported concussions reflects increased awareness especially because the rates went up the most after the 2008-09 academic year.
Around that time, states began passing legislation promoting education about concussions and setting "return to play" guidelines for youth sports. Media coverage about head injuries in professional athletes has also increased over the last five to 10 years.
"It's scary to consider these numbers because at first glance it looks like sports are getting more dangerous and athletes are getting injured more often," said Joseph Rosenthal, clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study. "This study is observational so it doesn't offer any proof about why the rates are going up. But I think in reality it's showing that concussions that were occurring before are now being diagnosed more consistently which is important."
A concussion is an injury to the brain that produces a transient loss of brain function with symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion, headache and vision changes. Typically, nothing will be seen on imaging. Recovery usually occurs within a short time, but previous research has suggested that high-school athletes take longer to recover than do older athletes, and that even teenage athletes are at risk for repetitive head trauma.
The study is published online in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Rosenthal and col
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Ohio State University