Frequency of Injury Among College Athletes
Two entities that compile injury statistics for the roughly 380,000 male and female college athletes. The NCAA and the National Athletic Trainers' Association have an injury surveillance system that collects injury reports submitted by trainers. It has been in operation since 1988. Through 2004, there were 200,000 injury reports -- filed when an athlete misses a day or more of practice or competition -- which works out to about 12,500 injuries per year. That number has been relatively consistent over the years. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research in North Carolina has kept statistics on college sports injuries since 1982. Both organizations aim to reduce the number of injuries in college sports.
The national surveillance system breaks injury statistics down by sport, type and year. For example, although college baseball has a relatively low rate of injuries, 25 percent of them are serious or severe, defined as injuries that prevent players from practicing or competing for at least 10 days. Sliding accounts for 13 percent of the recent injuries and the impact from a batted ball accounts for 10 percent of injuries. The trainers organization recommend break-away bases to cut down on the sliding injuries.
Concussions at all levels of football are a tremendous problem as of 2011, with a growing number of retired professional football players suffering from dementia after repeated concussions during their playing days. Among college football players, 34 percent have had one concussion and 30 percent have had two or more concussions. As the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery reports, if you have a second concussion, even a minor one, soon after the first concussion, you might die. A total of 26 deaths, most occurring since 2000, are attributed to "second impact syndrome." The neurological effects of concussions in college athletes also can result in learning disabilities and severe memory impairments. There is a lower, but significant, incidence of concussions in soccer as well.
Female college athletes suffer from up to five times as many ACL -- anterior cruciate ligament -- injuries as male athletes. ACL injuries bedevil women basketball, soccer and softball players, among others. As an article in "The New York Times" explains, there are anatomical, biomechanical and hormonal reasons why women are so vulnerable to ACL tears. Trainers are teaching players to land and cut in ways that might cut down on the number of such injuries.
The Most Dangerous Sports
While other sports, such as ice hockey and lacrosse have spectacular body-to-body contact and collisions during play, football still has the highest injury rate with 36 injuries per 1,000 male athletes. In addition to the high number of collisions in football, it also has the highest number of knee and ankle injuries.
Cheerleading is by far the most dangerous sport for women athletes. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research found that cheerleading accounted for 70.5 percent of catastrophic injuries -- fatal, disabling or serious -- suffered by college athletes. The high-flying routines create unique risks for cheerleaders.
- The New York Times: For Women in Sports, ACL Injuries Take Toll
- National Athletic Trainers' Association: Play By Play Sport Specified Results and Recommendations
- LiveScience: The Most Dangerous Female Sport
- University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurology Surgery: Sports-Related Concussions: Background and Signs
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.