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Concussion Rate 'Lower Than Expected' Among H.S. Athletes in Idaho

Almost 900 high school student-athletes in Idaho suffered a concussion while playing fall sports this school year, according to data from the Idaho High School Activities Association obtained Friday by the Idaho Press-Tribune, which was "lower than expected."

In total, 870 of 19,549 student-athletes—or nearly 5 percent—sustained a concussion while participating in football, volleyball, cross country, girls or boys soccer, cheerleading, or dance, according to the IHSAA's data. The association's assistant director, Julie Hammons, expressed surprise at that concussion rate.

"There's not one concussion that is acceptable," Hammons told the paper. "But as these came in, these were what we expected. They were even a bit lower. We felt like it was right in line (with national averages) and maybe even a little bit better. There is a lot of work to be done, but we felt pretty good about it."

Below, here's a look at the sport-by-sport concussion breakdown:

Football unsurprisingly led the way, with 581 of 7,105 student-athletes (8.2 percent) sustaining a concussion at some point during the season. Girls and boys soccer came next (3.7 and 3.4 percent, respectively), with cross country (0.14 percent) bringing up the rear. The survey only tracks concussions suffered during games or practices that were diagnosed by a certified health-care professional, so unreported concussions aren't included.

Last year, the association sent surveys to 152 high schools to begin collecting data on student-athlete head injuries, but only 68 schools responded. Nearly 450 student-athletes reported having sustained a concussion in those voluntary surveys, with football (307) and girls soccer (72) leading the way then, too.

The association made the survey mandatory this year, per the Press-Tribune. Schools that don't respond will face a fine from their local district board of control, Hammond told the paper.

This year's data will serve as a baseline to compare against future years, she said.

"The purpose of gathering this data is to see if there are certain activities that are concerning, that have a very, very high incidence rate," Hammond told the paper. "If we look at data in areas of the state or by activity that show concern, that's an alert. And the other thing is to drive our continuing ed(ucation) for our coaches."

A national rate for sports-related concussions among high school athletes doesn't exist, so there's no way to compare this data across states. Most concussion datasets track the number of concussions per athletic exposure (every time one athlete participates in one game or one practice), instead of simply tracking the number of athletes who sustain concussions. However, a report released last October by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council did find football and girls soccer to have the highest concussion rate per 10,000 athletic exposures, just as the data from the IHSAA suggest.

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