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Report: Concussions down nearly 10 percent in Michigan HS sports

Concussions are down, according to data compiled by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) during its third year of collecting head injury reports from member high schools.

This year’s data reinforces trends that emerged during the first two years of reporting and will assist the MHSAA as it explores solutions to continue reducing the incidence of head injuries in school sports.

The 2017-18 concussion report found a 9.6-percent decrease in the number of confirmed concussions from the previous year. Student-athletes at MHSAA member high schools encountered during 2017-18 a total of 3,580 head injuries — or 4.8 per member school, compared to the 2016-17 average of 5.2.

Total participation in MHSAA sports for 2017-18 was 284,920 — with students counted once for each sport he or she played — and only 1.3 percent of participants experienced a head injury, down from 1.4 in 2016-17 and 1.6 percent the first year of the study.

As first mandated in 2015-16, member schools are required to report head injuries to the MHSAA identifying the sport that each student-athlete was participating in and whether the injury was sustained during practice or competition. Schools also are required to designate at which level — varsity, junior varsity or freshman — the injury occurred.

The full report of all head injuries experienced during 2017-18, including percentages by sport (per 1,000 participants), gender and team level, as well as data tracking when athletes returned to play, can be found here.

Consistent with the first two years of the study, the MHSAA received data from more than 99 percent of its member high schools after the fall, winter and spring seasons and continued to track each injury report through its conclusion this summer. Member junior high and middle schools also were allowed, although not mandated, to report their potential head injuries; and those findings are not part of the published report.

The decrease in overall head injury reports collected for 2017-18 follows a similar reduction from 2015-16 to 2016-17 – and brings the total decrease to 19.6 percent fewer reports since the first year of the study.

MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts noted that the decreases in reports, both year to year and since the first year of the survey, likely have some relation to year-to-year fluctuation, refinement of the follow-up reporting process and a better understanding by schools of what is not to be included for the survey – including head injuries not diagnosed as concussions and head injuries that did not take place during MHSAA-sponsored activities.

However, the findings of this year’s study – and their similarities to the findings from the first two surveys – has begun to clarify the identification and understanding of trends. Continuing to emerge perhaps most prominently is the higher incidence of concussion reports from girls sports – and pertinent questions about physiological and social causes behind those results.

“With three years of reporting by virtually 100 percent of our high schools, what we’re learning is no longer anecdotal; the results are beginning to identify valid trends and genuine issues that need to be addressed,” Roberts said. “For example, it’s even clearer than before that girls are reporting three times the number of concussions as boys when comparing similar sports – soccer, basketball and baseball versus softball. As a result, we’ve already begun to incorporate these gender differences into our coaches education, and the writers of high school playing rules are obligated to focus on these gender differences as well.”

Click here to read more from the MHSAA.


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