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Which sports generate the most concussions?

Girls soccer is the sport with the highest number of sports concussions.

Concussions occur in all sports, with the highest incidence in football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, hockey, rugby, and lacrosse. Even cheerleading reports a high concussion incidence! 

According to “Epidemiology of Concussions Among US High School Athletes in 20 Sports,” the majority of concussions occur from these sports:

  • Football (47.1%)
  • Girls’ soccer (8.2%)
  • Boys’ wrestling (5.8%)
  • Girls’ basketball (5.5%) 
     
Dr. Christopher Giza, MD
Pediatrician

There is a hierarchy to sports that are the most dangerous when it comes to concussions. The ones that are most dangerous are combat sports where there's full contact like martial arts, mixed martial arts (MMA), cage fighting and boxing. No studies have been done on these, but because the point of the sport is to hit and injure the other person, those are likely to have the highest risk of concussion. In terms of sports for which there is actual data, they are grouped according to high risk, middle risk and low risk.

Studies have shown that the high-risk sports include full tackle football, rugby, ice hockey, wrestling, and boys lacrosse. The second tier, or middle-risk level, includes soccer for boys or girls, and girls lacrosse. Basketball is probably a little bit on the lower end of the middle-risk level, but there are some collisions that occur in basketball. The low-risk sports include baseball, track and swimming.

There are some sports that need mention that haven't been studied but are a little bit surprising. Water polo, for example, is probably in the moderate range. Cheerleading can also cause concussions. While it's only the 13th most likely cause of concussion among sports in a national high school database during competition, in practice it turns out that cheerleading is the third highest sport associated with concussions, partly because in many jurisdictions it's not considered a sport. They don't have the same protective equipment and supervision that the "official" sports do.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

Young athletes who play contact sports such as football, hockey or wrestling are at the highest risk. However, concussions occur in all types of sports, including soccer, basketball, gymnastics, water polo, cycling and even baseball and softball.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.