Concussions are an unfortunate risk involved in playing sports and can be especially detrimental to youth athletes whose brains are still developing. Conflicting health-related studies have supported or discouraged playing football. In the report by Complete Concussion Management, football ranked as the third most likely sport among youth athletes to cause a concussion. This final study highlights the difficulty in deciding whether or not football is safe due to its relative safety compared to other sports.
After ice hockey and rugby, football ranks third in concussions per 1,000 athletic exposures (AE). An athletic exposure is defined as one athlete competing in one game or practice. On average, there are 0.53 concussions per 1,000 AE in football which makes football one of the higher risk sports for youth athletes. However, football is twice as safe as ice hockey and eight times safer than rugby. If it has not already become clear, there are many ways to interpret these data. On one hand, football ranks third in concussions per 1,000 AE and therefore families could choose many safer alternatives to football. On the other hand, football is much safer than ice hockey and rugby which many see as safe for their children. One might argue that this study cannot measure the sports properly, since there are gender biases in every one of them. For example, significantly more boys play football than girls, and significantly more girls play softball than boys. However, this study measure concussions per 1,000 AE, with the inherent gender bias, for all youth who have played each sport. This figure sums up the ongoing debate on the safety of football – it is complicated and families face a complicated decision about which sport is safe enough for their children.
Among youth sports, football ranks as the third most likely sport in which you would sustain a concussion. Football is not the most dangerous, but not the safest sport either. Based on this figure, you could argue football is a safe or dangerous option for boys. Like many parents across the country, it is up to you to decide what risks are appropriate for you and your children. Data do not always provide clear cut decisions but they do allow you to make an informed decisions, one way or the other.
*Complete Concussion Management, December 5, 2018, Concussion Rates: What Sport Has the Most Concussions?