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Concussion Rate for Female Middle-School Soccer Players Higher Than Reported

The concussion rate for female middle-school soccer players is significantly greater than those previously reported for high school and college athletes, according to a study published online Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study, which was conducted from March 2008 through May 2012 in Washington state, involved 351 female soccer players between the ages of 11 and 14.

In total, 51 players reported 59 concussions, eight of which were repeat injuries, over the course of 43,742 athletic-exposure hours (defined as one hour a player engaged in either practice or competition). Fifty-one of the reported concussions occurred during a game, while the other eight were sustained during practice.

Heading the ball caused the highest share of the sustained concussions (18 in total, 30.5 percent), followed by "other" (14, 23.7 percent), goaltending (seven, 11.9 percent), chasing a loose ball (six, 10.1 percent), and getting a ball from an opponent (six, 10.1 percent).

It took an average of 9.4 days for symptoms to subside for the players who sustained a concussion. Headaches (53 of the 59, 89.3 percent), dizziness (40, 67.8 percent), and concentration problems (25, 42.4 percent) were the three most reported symptoms.

Below, here's a look at all of the symptoms reported by players in the study, along with the median number of days it took before those symptoms disappeared:

After sustaining a concussion, a majority of the players (34 in total, 58.6 percent) reported playing through at least some symptoms. For 33 of the 59 concussions, a qualified health-care professional never evaluated the player. 

Overall, the female middle-school soccer players sustained an average of 1.3 concussions per 1,000 athletic-exposure hours, which is a higher rate than had been previously reported. Earlier studies of female high school soccer players found rates of 0.23 to 0.85 concussions per 1,000 athletic-exposure hours, while female college soccer players had rates of 0.35 to 0.85 concussions per 1,000 athletic-exposure hours. The study authors suggest that differences in method and underreporting of concussions in previous studies could be to blame for the differences.

Based on their findings, the authors believe there's a need for future studies "to develop education strategies to ensure players understand and report concussion symptoms and that parents and coaches ensure appropriate medical evaluation and clearance before returning to play."

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