Football Concussion Epidemic?

Mar 9, 2017 5:05 PM
John Hillock

How Common Are Head Injuries in Youth Football?

According to the Sports Concussion Institute, “Football is the most common sport with concussion risk for males (75% chance for concussion).”  See  

A 75% chance for concussion? Really? That’s should scare the heck out of any football parent, and make us seriously question whether children should be playing football.  

The problem is, as is the case with MANY of the articles and editorials you will find on the Internet and in Mass Media, there is no significant data supporting this statistic.  You can do a quick Internet search and see article after article opposing Youth Football because of the concussion risk.  Most will quote some statistic from a study done at the NFL or College level that have zero relevance to Youth Football (ages 5-14).  Even worse are the articles that just repeat some statistic that they've read in another article with no reference.  

In a 2012 study, researchers at the Center for Injury Biomechanics estimated the number of football players in the USA (Source:   

  • 2,000 in the NFL

  • 100,000 in college

  • 1.3 million in high school

  • 3.5 million in youth leagues

That’s 4,802,000 football players each year!  Football IS the most popular sport in the United States by a WIDE margin.  When you’re #1, you will have a target on your back.  

If you were to believe the current Media, concussions in football are an epidemic.  The truth is that FAR more Youth and High School football players suffer life threatening injuries or death from sudden cardiac arrest and heat-related illness each season.  

There have been very few Youth Football concussion rate studies.  USA Football commissioned a 2012-2013 study with Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention - See more at:  The study, which encompassed more than 4,000 players ages 5-14 determined that only 4.3 percent of players in the study sustained a concussion.  While 4.3 percent is still higher than I’d like to see, it should be noted that many of the participants were not participating in the USA Football Head-Up Football program.  

How does our Club compare?  We adopted the USA Football Heads-Up Football program 4 years ago and began tracking our own Club football injuries.  Our coaches are required to submit an online injury report anytime a coach removes a player from a practice or game due to an injury that the coach feels needs a medical professional to diagnose and treat. 

The results:

What % of our football players sustained an injury requiring loss of practice/play time?

What % of our players were diagnosed w\Football-related concussion symptoms?


None of these head injuries were catastrophic and, in the majority of cases, doctors cleared the players to return to play the same season.  

The next time a parent says to you, “How can you let your child play football? It’s unsafe!”  Ask them if they’ve ever actually sat and watched a Youth Football game.  Chances are, they haven’t and just assume it is the same as High School, College and the NFL.  It is not. 

Then ask them if they let their child ride a bicycle.  Riding your bicycle is far more dangerous than playing football.  According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cycling accidents were involved in roughly 86,000 of the 447,000 sports-related head injuries in 2009. Football only accounted for 47,000 of those head injuries, a little more than half of what bicycling caused. For comparison, baseball played a part in approximately 38,500 brain injuries. (Source:

Youth Football is a contact sport and injuries will occur.  The data from our Club proves that, when you outfit the kids with the best equipment, size it properly, train your coaches, and follow USA Football Heads-Up Tackle guidelines, the risk of injury can be reduced and there most certainly is nowhere near a “75% chance for concussion.”

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