3.2
August 29, 2015

Concussions: what are the most dangerous sports for children?

Some sports are more dangerous than others.

That’s a given. But some sports: namely soccer and football—are off the charts.

The key: a la The Book for Dangerous Boys, is to let children encounter a manageable level of adventure, risk and danger. The NY Times, some years ago, did an “expose” on how newer, safer jungle gyms are actually more dangerous because they don’t allow children to learn how to negotiate modest danger.

Via the NY Times:  Concussions Can Occur in All Youth Sports

“…The young brain is especially susceptible to concussion, and sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children aged 8 through 13, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. A child who suffers a concussion is one and a half times more likely to experience another, and those who have had two concussions have a threefold greater risk of the same injury happening again.

Many parents wonder if it is wise to let their children participate in sports like football and soccer, in which head injuries are most common…”

…Studies have found that more than 50 percent of high school athletes and 70 percent of college athletes failed to report concussions they had sustained while playing football.

But first, it is worth noting that almost no sport is free of a concussion hazard, and that participating in sports has “cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits that outweigh everything,” said Steven P. Broglio, the director of the Neurotrauma Research Lab at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement on how best to deal with concussions among young athletes….”

sports children

What’s a parent to do?

Before you put your kid’s bike on craigslist, there is something you need to know about these data. Cycling could be considered the “most dangerous sport” for young kids as so far as it is responsible for the highest percentage of sports related brain injuries. However, cycling is also extremely popular, with millions of kids riding bikes every year. This popularity could explain why cycling accounts for so many ER visits. So the data presented today doesn’t help us understand the “probability of injury” when participating in each sport, which I would consider a better definition of “dangerous”. Let me give you an example with FABRICATED DATA. 

Imagine that cycling results in 1 brain injury for every 100,000 ‘child bike user hours’ (for every 100,000 hours that a child is riding a bike, one child will have a brain injury). In contrast, snowboarding may result in 1 brain injury for every 1,000 snowboarding hours. In this scenario, the risk of experiencing a brain injury is significantly higher when snowboarding than when cycling. Specifically, you could argue that snowboarding is 100 times more dangerous than cycling. Yet, because cycling is significantly more popular (in terms of use) than snowboarding, cycling would send more people to the hospital. (Again these last statements are based on a hypothetical case with fabricated data. I don’t really know if snowboarding is more dangerous than cycling.)

> A wonderful website about youth sports concussion by the CDC.

Bonus: Yoga for Children.




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Jamie Aug 29, 2015 7:51pm

I have to take issue with the editorializing in this article. I don't know if bias for or against any particular sport is the reason but article itself doesn't reflect both data sets, which aren't overly consistent.

The first sentence is somewhat glaring in its proclamation that the two most dangerous sports according to their "off the charts" data by comparison are football and soccer. In both data sets, it is clear and consistent football is a dangerous contact sport. Anyone, of any age, is far more likely to suffer a concussion playing football that any other main stream sport. Soccer is identified by the writer as being akin to football in the risk of a player suffering a concussion. The data sets are inconsistent on exactly where soccer falls on the spectrum but in both cases football has a rate of concussions three times that of soccer.

Yes, I am a soccer player and devotee. I also enjoy watching football. Any team sport is inherently going to create a higher risk for al types of injuries in comparison to individual sports and activities. Even so called, non contact sports, have higher risk. Whenever two teams play a sport in a contained space and speed and possession are needed to excel, collisions are inevitable, intended or not. In reality, most head injuries I personally witnessed playing soccer and lacrosse were unimtended collisions. It was far more rare in those two sports to see someone injured while engaging in a normal part of the game. In football, it is seen in graphic detail every Sunday on TV. the game is predicated on one person hitting several people with 11 players on each team.

If the author and editors want to put a warning label on particular sports make the warnings reflect the level of risk.

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