Student Well-Being

Minnesota Tallies Concussions Among H.S. Student-Athletes

By Bryan Toporek — September 08, 2014 2 min read
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High school students in Minnesota suffered roughly 3,000 sports-related concussions during the 2013-14 school year, according to new estimates from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The department gathered data from 36 public high schools in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, all of which had certified athletic trainers working there. In total, the athletic trainers reported 730 sports-related concussions from 67,212 student-athletes between August 1, 2013, and May 27, 2014. The department then extrapolated those rates statewide, estimating that 2,974 sports-related concussions occurred among high school athletes during the 2013-14 school year.

Unsurprisingly, football led the way with 304 reported concussions, or roughly 42 percent of the total amount reported by athletic trainers. Girls’ soccer (67), boys’ hockey (56), girls’ hockey (50), and girls’ basketball (47) touted the next-highest number of reported concussions.

Here’s a sport-by-sport breakdown of the percentage of reported concussions:

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After gathering the raw concussion totals, the study authors calculated the concussion rates for each sport per 100 participating athletes. Football, girls’ hockey, and boys’ hockey all led the way with six concussions per 100 athletes, followed by girls’ basketball (four per 100 athletes), girls’ soccer (three per 100), wrestling (three per 100), and girls’ volleyball (two per 100).

Here’s a look at each sport’s rate of concussions per 100 athletes:

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Using the data from the 36 Twin Cities-area schools, the health department then created sport-by-sport estimates in terms of total number of concussions suffered last year. Once more, football led the way (1,355), followed by basketball (500), hockey (379), and soccer (281).

Below is the full set of estimates:

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Notably, this study differed from many national studies by counting concussions per athlete instead of per athletic exposure (defined as each instance of an athlete participating in a practice or competition). The study authors noted that they attempted to collect data on athletic exposures during the initial pilot in 2012-13, but “found asking for this information significantly complicated the athletic trainers’ work.”

The data presented here could well be undercounting the number of actual concussions suffered, the study authors note, as athletic trainers may not have been at all athletic events and may not have been informed of all concussions suffered during sports events. Thus, “the overall rate of one concussion per 100 athletes is very likely conservative,” they write.

“These findings indicate that sports-related concussions are a significant source of youth head injuries in our state,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger in a statement. “To protect our young athletes, we need appropriate equipment and training on sports techniques. We also need to focus on building awareness among athletes, parents, teachers, coaches, and health care providers about the warning signs of brain injuries.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.