Head Injuries Among Student Athletes

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. represents people who have been injured or killed through the negligence of others. We recognize that some of the most serious injuries are traumatic brain injuries, many of which are sports related. If you are the parent of a child who plays sports, you want to be aware of the potential for such injuries and how to reduce the risk of injury. Here are some important facts concerning head injuries among student athletes:

Every year, there are approximately 300,000 concussions among student athletes in the United States.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of reported concussions more than doubled. This increase in reported concussion rates coincides with increased awareness resulting from the passage of state laws to reduce the incidence and severity of brain injuries and greater media attention to such injuries.

Despite increasing awareness of head injuries, research suggests that concussions are still underreported, partly because young athletes "play through" injuries to avoid "letting down" their team mates, parents and coaches. Moreover, many states do not require coaches to be trained to recognize the symptoms of concussion. Common symptoms with concussion include headache, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and sensitivity to light or noise.

Some sports have seen an increase in injuries because of growing numbers of students who participate, or because the nature of the sport has changed over time. In the case of cheerleading, both factors have played a part in increased rates of head injury. Not only have increasing numbers of students participated in cheerleading, but the difficulty and complexity of the stunts has dramatically increased over the last 20 years.

At one time, cheerleading primarily involved leading crowds in cheers with "pompoms, toe-touch jumps, splits and clapping." This routine has evolved "into a competitive, physically demanding, year-round activity consisting of fast-paced floor routines with leaps and jumps, gymnastics-style tumbling, and complex stunts, such as pyramid building and tossing athletes in the air..." according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), during the 2010-2011 school year, there were 1579 concussions among cheerleaders.

The vast majority of cheerleaders (about 96%) are girls, but girls and young women are also involved in large numbers in other sports such as basketball, soccer, baseball and lacrosse which present a risk of head injuries. Interestingly enough, female athletes seem to suffer higher rates of concussion than their male counterparts who play the same sports, and to have longer recovery times. For a long time, people assumed that women were simply more likely to report injuries than their male counterparts, but researchers now conjecture that there may be physical differences, such as the fact that women tend to have less neck strength than men, which makes them more vulnerable to whiplash.

For boys, the most likely sports to result in injuries are football, basketball, soccer, baseball and lacrosse. High school football players may play both high school and varsity, both offense and defense, or every minute of every game, something that would never be expected from a college or professional player, and this increases the risk of head injury.

If your child plays sports, it is important to make sure that he or she uses the proper protective equipment, such as helmets, in practice as well as games. About 62% of all sports related injuries occur during practice.

Many sports have associations which promote player safety and make safety related information available to parents. The National Cheer Safety Foundation, for example, has a website, www.nationalcheersafety.com/... with resources available to parents.

If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury because of someone else's negligence, please contact us at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us at our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.


Brain Injury Association of America, "Brain Injury in Children," www.biausa.org...

Linda Flanigan, How Students Brains are in Danger on the Field, The Atlantic, Aug. 14, 2017 available on line at https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/08/how-students-brains- are-in-danger...

American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: Cheerleading Injuries: Epidemiology and Recommendations for Prevention, Pediatrics 2012, 130:966-971.

Great! Schools, "The 5 Most Dangerous Sports for Boys," https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/five-most-dangerous- sports-for boys...

American Association of Neurological Surgeons, "Sports-related Head Injury," http://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurological-Conditions-and-Treatments/Sports-related...

Health, "The Truth About Women and Concussions," www.heath.com

Reuters Health, "Sport-related concussions more common in high school girls," https://www.reuters.com/.../us-health-adolescents-sports-concussions-idUSKBN17L28...