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NCAA Football Concussion Rate Steadies Over Past Eight Years

The National Collegiate Athletic Association released data Friday suggesting that the rate of football-related concussions has remained relatively steady over the past eight years, despite the recent wave of sports-concussion awareness.

For every 1,000 game-related exposures during the NCAA's 2011 football season, 2.5 concussions were recorded, according to data from the NCAA's Injury Surveillance Program. Comparatively, 3.4 concussions were reported for every 1,000 game-related exposures during the 2004-05 season, before steadying out over the rest of the decade.

According to the NCAA, the "the difference in year-to-year variability is not statistically different at this point."

This also likely falls in the "not statistically significant" realm, but the rate of football concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures in practice hit an eight-year high in 2011-12, with 0.5 concussions. That's despite moves such as the Ivy League rulelimiting football teams to two contact practices each week.

Dr. Robert Cantu, the author of the new book "Concussions and Our Kids," suggested in a recent interview that a healthy chunk of head trauma could be eliminated by limiting the amount of contact student-athletes can endure during practice.

David Klossner, the NCAA's director of health and safety, couldn't offer a concrete reason why the concussion rate stabilized over the past eight years, but suggested increased concussion awareness may have played a role.

"Given the increased awareness and sensitivity to concussions by coaches, athletes, and medical staff over the last few years, a level rate of concussions is encouraging as we anticipated a spike in the data set," Klossner said in a statement. "Although we do not yet have enough information to draw final conclusions, these data are important to monitor trends as we strive to make competition and practice safer for our student-athletes in all sports."

Does this mean that the youth-sports concussion problem is largely overblown? Not necessarily.

Just because the NCAA's reported concussion rate has steadied doesn't mean the Injury Surveillance Program data is accurately capturing every concussion. In his interview with me, Dr. Cantu suggested that while the rate of concussion detection and diagnosis has likely been on the rise in the past few years, we're still a long way from diagnosing every student-athlete concussion.

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