Concussions have been a major concern for both high school athletes and their parents, but who is most at risk and what will help decrease the amount of concussions in the future?
When asked what high school sport you are most likely to receive a concussion in, most people would probably respond with boys American Football, Rugby, or Hockey, but, in fact, the correct answer would be girls Soccer.
Concussions have become a widely reported on subject in recent years due to the increased awareness of the issue, so much so that the US government has even passed legislation on how head injuries should we dealt with in youths. Thanks to the new legislation, the amount of diagnosed concussions has risen by 220% between 2005 and 2015, which means that less people are going untreated and more accurate research has been conducted.
Research completed by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has revealed some surprising results. When comparing girl’s sports with boys, they found that girls on average suffer concussions more often then boys in the same sport. It also found during the 2014-2015 school year, concussions were more common in girls’ soccer than any other sport.
“While American football has been both scientifically and colloquially associated with the highest concussion rates, our study found that girls, and especially those who play soccer, may face a higher risk,”
-Wellington Hsu, MD, professor of orthopedics at Northwestern University
Researchers hypothesize that these extremely high concussion rates among girls are due to the lack of protective gear, emphasis on the physical aspect of the game, and focusing on winning headers.
Despite the argument for more protective gear, studies have shown that increasing safety equipment could have the opposite effect, and actually increase concussion rates. One of the reason is the impact on the brain can be increased by the wearing of a helmet as it can cause a more violent rebound against the skull. Also, athletes report that they feel safer in their protective gear, so they are more likely to hit harder or be more reckless. A great example of this is, in rugby, people tackle each other in a much safer way which minimizes head to head contact while tackling in American Football is more about delivering a big hit then doing it safely.
So is there some other way to incorporate equipment in sports which will assist in recognizing concussions to better understand and limit them in the future? Companies such as Samsung and CSx are developing wearable technology and software which allows for a quicker diagnosis and appropriate treatment while the NFL continues to research safer equipment and treatment options.
An argument against the use of data tracking technology is that it will interfere with an athletes ability to perform, but rugby coaches and trainers may have found a way to highlight warning signs which indicate the early stages of a concussion without hindering athletes. Professional players have been wearing small monitors on their back to track the forces exerted on them in each game (pictured below). This can help identify which angles are most dangerous to tackle someone from, which will then allow athletes to adjust the way they play to tackle more efficiently and with less risk.
So now the important question arises: should research be done on safer equipment, or on other ways to prevent and treat concussions?
University Student studying International Business at Richmond, The American International University in London and Intern at WePlay Digital Sports Agency.