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Most Concussion-Prone Sport for College Athletes Isn't What You Expect

By David Matthews | December 14, 2015 5:57am | Updated on December 15, 2015 11:03am
 Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital analyzed data on which youth sports have the highest concussion rates.
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital analyzed data on which youth sports have the highest concussion rates.
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STREETERVILLE — With sports concussions drawing the attention of lawmakers, parents and Hollywood alike, one Chicago hospital decided to show which sports put athletes most at risk.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital, 225 E. Chicago Ave., last week published an infographic laying out the high school and college sports with the highest concussion rates. It compiled three years of data, which reveals that, respectively, football and soccer are the most dangerous sports for high school boys and girls. 

"We see kids of all ages from all sports getting concussions," said Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the hospital's institute of sports medicine and director of its concussion program. "We wanted to put this information out so we have hard data when parents ask."

[Lurie Children's Hospital]

The study uses information compiled by Datalys, a non-profit that monitors concussions. It measures the rate of concussions per "athletic exposures," or every time an athlete participates in a game or practice. 

The study arrives amid renewed focus on concussions, the prevalence of which in football and damaging long-term effects are the focus of an upcoming Christmas Day movie starring Will Smith. Many retired professional athletes, including former Chicago Bear Dave Duerson, battled brain trauma before ending their lives. And others, like 24-year-old former San Francisco 49er Chris Borland, have retired prematurely out of fear for their health. 

WATCH: Dr. LaBella addresses how to identify and treat concussions. 

The hospital previously lobbied Springfield to pass legislation in 2011 mandating high school athletes with concussion symptoms be reviewed by a doctor before checking back into a game. Next fall, Illinois schools will require "return to learn" as well as "return to sports" protocols for students who suffer concussions.

With more awareness comes more concussions that are actually reported, LaBella said. Because of this, it's very possible the Datalys findings could change soon. Another study about concussions cheerleaders suffer was just published in the past month, she said. 

"There's so much research always going on," LaBella said. "We'll update this as the studies come out." 

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