If you figure it on a minute-for-minute basis, the concussion rate for youth, high school, and college football players is higher during actual games, but players are more likely to suffer a concussion during a practice than during a game. This makes sense when you realize that there are more practice sessions then there are football games.
Researchers looked at information from three databases that keep track of injuries in football games on the youth, high school, and college levels. They looked at concussions in players ranging from age 5 to age 23. Concussions made up 9.6%, 4.0%, and 8.0% of all football injuries reported on the youth, high school, and college level.
For all three levels, football practices were a major source of concussions, but the rate of concussions varied by age group. For youth players aged 5 to 14, almost 54% of concussions occurred during games, compared to around 42% of concussions at the high school and college level, the study found. The rate was highest in college, with almost 4 concussions per 1,000 participations in a game, compared to 2.4 for youth players and about 3 for high-school players.
Understanding that practice injuries add up can help target ways for players to learn football plays and reduce the risks of putting them in harm's way. "Although it is more difficult to change the intensity or conditions of a game, many strategies can be used during practice to limit player-to-player contact and other potentially injurious behaviors," the study concluded.
The issue of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is brain injury due to several concussions or similar injuries to the brain, has drawn the attention of parents, coaches, and groups that oversee football on every level. A football player may need a couple of weeks to recover from the effects of a concussion, which can include headaches and problems with thinking and memory. In younger players who have had more than one concussion, the effects may take longer to go away.
The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.