Jan 29, 2015A Look at the New NCAA Injury Data
By Dennis Read
The first set of college athletic injury data compiled by the Datalys Center has just been released and it’s already making an impact on student-athlete welfare.
**** The latest data for five fall sports has helped shaped discussion around concussions and played a part in a recent recommendation that any athlete in any sport showing signs of a concussion be withheld from play until they have been cleared by a medical professional.
David Klossner, NCAA Director of Health and Safety told the NCAA News:
“The injury data are useful because they tell us factually that concussions occur across sports. Too many people think concussion is just a football injury, but from the NCAA’s perspective, it’s a condition that is a concern across all the sports.”
The report shows that concussions account for about seven percent of game injuries in the five fall sports studied (football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball, and field hockey) and five percent of practice injuries. They are the second most common game injury in both football and women’s soccer. Concussions are most common in football with 2.7 concussions per 1,000 exposures meaning for every 1,000 players who took to the field for a game, 2.7 would suffer a concussion.
Although most of the discussion on concussions has been focused on football, women’s soccer is not far behind with a concussion rate of 2.1 per 1,000 exposures. Men’s soccer reported a rate of 1.1 per 1,000.
The good news is that recent changes designed to reduce the concussion rate in football seem to be working. In 2004, the concussion rate in football was 3.4 per 1,000 exposures. New rules addressing spearing and head-down contact were enacted for the 2005 season and the concussion rate dropped to 2.7 per 1,000 in the years since. Not surprisingly, tackling is the major cause of concussion with tacklers suffering 31 percent of concussions and players being tackled suffering 29 percent.
“Beginning in 2005-06, our data show a lower injury rate for concussion,” Klossner told the NCAA News, “That can’t necessarily be attributed completely to a rules change or enforcement, but it is a good indicator that the efforts we’ve taken have positively impacted student-athletes.”
This is the first chance to evaluate the effects of the changes since the NCAA changed its reporting system to a broader-based electronic reporting system and refined the way the data is analyzed. The NCAA issued a different set of injury reports from 1988 to 2004.
The new data projects a total of more than 260,000 football injuries over the five-year period ending in 2009, which is more than the other four fall sports combined. Games were clearly the most dangerous time for football players with a game-injury rate of 48 per 1,000 compared to seven per 1,000 in practice.
It may come as a surprise that when practices and games are combined, football did not have the highest injury rate or even second highest. Women’s soccer had the highest combined injury rate with 10.9 injuries per 1,000 exposures, with strains and sprains accounting for nearly half of the injuries. Men’s soccer had a combined injury rate of 10.7 and was followed by football at 10.5. Field hockey players suffered 9.2 injuries per 1,000 exposures and volleyball players had 7.9.
The reports in this study reflect only injuries that resulted in athletes missing either practices or games. Future reports will also include data on injuries that do not keep an athlete on the sideline.
“Going forward, we will collect non-time-loss and time-loss injuries, because we think that gives a better picture of a sport and what the student-athletes are experiencing in a sport,” Klossner said. “It allows us to provide policy as well as rules changes that are helpful both in practice and competition.”
Dennis Read is an Associate Editor at Training & Conditioning.