Study Finds That Football and Women’s Volleyball Players Have Highest Rates of Concussion Injuries

A poster presentation at the AAOS 2021 Annual Meeting describes the timing, frequency, and recovery patterns of concussion among NCAA Division 1 athletes at the University of Southern California. Overall, Nicholas Debellis, MD, and authors found that concussion injuries occurred most frequently among football and women’s volleyball players. Concussions also occurred most commonly during practice rather than during games.

Using medical records data from the 17-year period between 2003 and 2020, Dr. Debellis and colleagues defined the number of concussion events and time of participation missed due to concussion injury among the different sport teams: baseball, football, golf, lacrosse, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, men’s track and field, women’s track and field, men’s volleyball, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo, women’s water polo, rowing, soccer, swimming, and tennis.

A total of 452 NCAA Division I athletes sustained at least one concussion injury, amounting to 547 concussion events. These injuries resulted in an average of 33.8 ± 22.8 days of missed time from sport participation.

Two-thirds of concussion injuries occurred during practice rather than games (66.7% vs. 24.9%; P<0.001). There were only two sports when concussion occurred more often during games than practice: soccer (52.9% vs. 47.1%) and lacrosse (90.0% vs. 10.0%).

As expected, football was the sport with the greatest number of concussion events (220 events in 167 athletes). Women’s volleyball followed, with 60 events in 24 players. Across sports, most players returned to sport within one month. The authors noted that tennis players had the longest period of time missed from sport participation due to concussion, at nearly three months.