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Youth more likely to lose consciousness with football injury to top of head

Top-of-head injuries more likely to lead to concussion
Top-of-head injuries more likely to lead to concussion
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A new study on the outcomes of concussions in young football players based on the area of the head where injuries occur indicates that injuries that happen on the top of the head are more likely to lead to loss of consciousness. The authors of the study recommend that players not practice a “heads-down” approach when colliding with each other as a possible way to avoid a concussion to the top of the head.

Researchers did the study because they wanted to see which types of injuries were more or less likely to cause concussions, and which concussions were more severe.

“Little research has examined concussion outcomes in terms of impact location (ie, the area on the head in which the impact occurred),” they write. “This study describes the epidemiology of concussions resulting from player-to-player collision in high school football by impact location.”

The researchers used data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study done in 2008/2009 and 2012/2013 to analyze rates and other circumstances of concussion during football games. They looked at:

  • Symptoms of players
  • Resolution time
  • Return time to play
  • Impact location (front, back, side, and top of head).

They found that most concussions from “player-to-player collisions” happened from the front of the head (44.7 percent) and side of the head (22.3 percent).

“Number of symptoms reported, prevalence of reported symptoms, symptom resolution time, and length of time to return to play were not associated with impact location,” the researchers report.

But more of the players who had concussions from the top of the head had loss of consciousness (eight percent) than players with concussions from impacts to other areas of the head (3.5 percent).

Most players had their heads down at the time of impact in more concussions caused by top-of-the-head impacts (86.4 percent) compared to concussions from impacts to other areas of the head (24 percent).

“Recommended strategies for reducing the proportion of top-of-the-head impacts include improved education regarding tackling with proper ‘head-up’ technique,” the researchers conclude.

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