The Youth Football Concussion Myth

I was enticed to write this blog article in 2017 after reading an article from Sports Concussion Institute, that declared, “Football is the most common sport with concussion risk for males (75% chance for concussion).”

A 75% chance for concussion? Really? That’s should scare the heck out of any football parent, and make us seriously question whether children should be playing football.

As of now (March 2022), that referenced article is no longer on the publisher’s web site. I can’t say for certain why, but I suspect, as is the case with MANY of the articles and editorials you will find on the Internet and in Mass Media, there is no significant data supporting this statistic.

There are nearly 5 MILLION football players each year! Football IS the most popular sport in the United States by a WIDE margin.

  • 2,000 in the NFL
  • 100,000 in college
  • 1.3 million in high school
  • 3.5 million in youth leagues

When you’re #1, you will have a target on your back.

If you were to believe the current Media, concussions in football are an epidemic. The truth is that FAR more Youth and High School football players suffer life threatening injuries or death from sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illness each season. There have been very few Youth Football concussion rate studies. Most are focused on professional and college level athletes.

The Datalys Center, a center for sports injury research and prevention, in cooperation with the University of South Carolina, studied ALL injuries for a small Youth Football league in 2012 and 2013. The age-weight club had 141 players.  208 injuries were reported and, “the most frequent injuries were contusions, sprains, and headaches.”

Total concussions reported: Three. That represents 1.44% of the players.  That’s a long way from “75% chance of concussion.

How does our Club compare? We began tracking our own Club football injuries in 2013. Our coaches are required to submit an online injury report anytime a coach removes a player from a practice or game due to an injury that the coach feels needs a medical professional to diagnose and treat. The results over a 7-year period:

What % of our football players sustained an injury requiring loss of practice/play time?
9.16%

What % of our players were diagnosed w\Football-related concussion symptoms?
2.79%

None of these head injuries were catastrophic and, in the majority of cases, doctors cleared the players to return to play the same season.

The next time a parent says to you, “How can you let your child play football? It’s unsafe!” Ask them if they’ve ever actually sat and watched a Youth Football game. Chances are, they haven’t and just assume it is the same as High School, College and the NFL. It is not.

Then ask them if they let their child ride a bicycle. Riding your bicycle is far more dangerous than playing football. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cycling accidents were involved in roughly 86,000 of the 447,000 sports-related head injuries in 2009. Football only accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, a little more than half of what bicycling caused. For comparison, baseball played a part in approximately 38,500 brain injuries. (Source: http://www.traumaticbraininjury.net/move-over-football-cycling-is-the-biggest-cause-of-sports-related-tbi/)

Youth Football is a contact sport and injuries will occur. The data from our Club proves that, when you outfit the kids with the best equipment, size it properly, and train your coaches, the risk of injury can be reduced and there most certainly is nowhere near a “75% chance for concussion.”