LAPEER COUNTY — The Michigan High School Athletic Association has completed its second year of collecting head injury reports from member schools as it continues to build data that will assist in identifying trends and progress being made to reduce the incidence of head injuries in school sports.
Following a first mandate to do so in 2015-16, member schools again were required to report head injuries to the MHSAA identifying the sport that each student-athlete was participating in and whether the injury was sustained during practice or competition. As reporting for the 2017-18 school year is now underway, schools again are required to designate if potential concussions occur during competition or practice and at which level – varsity, junior varsity or freshman.
The full report of all head injuries experienced during 2016-17 by student athletes at MHSAA member high schools – including percentages by sport (per 1,000 participants), gender and team level, as well as data tracking when athletes returned to play – is available on the Health & Safety page of the MHSAA Website at www.mhsaa.com/portals/0/ Documents/health%20safety/concussionreport1617. pdf.
As with the first year of reporting, the MHSAA received data from more than 99 percent of its member high schools after the fall, winter and spring seasons and continued to track each injury report through its conclusion this summer. Member junior high and middle schools also were allowed, although not mandated, to report their potential head injuries; and those findings are not part of the published report.
The 2016-17 concussion report found an 11-percent decrease in the number of confirmed concussions from the previous year. Student-athletes at MHSAA member high schools encountered during 2016-17 a total of 3,958 head injuries – or 5.2 per member school, similar but lower than the 2015-16 average of 5.9. Total participation in MHSAA sports for 2016-17 was 283,625 – with students counted once for each sport he or she played – and only 1.4 percent of participants experienced a head injury; that percentage in 2015-16 was 1.6.
However, MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said that while it’s significant to note the similarity in those statistics over the first two years of injury report collection, the lower percentages in 2016-17 don’t necessarily represent a trend – that conclusion can only be made after more data is collected in years to come. Some differences in data from the first year to the second could be the result of schools’ increased familiarity with the reporting system, the refinement of the follow-up reporting procedure and other survey error that is expected to decrease with future surveys.
“Our first survey in 2015-16 raised some initial themes, and the data we collected this past year and will continue to collect will help us identify the trends that will guide our next steps in reducing head injuries in interscholastic athletics,” Roberts said. “However, the necessity for more data to determine these trends should not delay our efforts to experiment with more head protection and modified play and practice rules in contact sports like ice hockey, soccer, wrestling and lacrosse – which all ranked among the top 10 sports for numbers of head injuries per thousand participants.
“We will continue to look for ways to make our good games better and our healthy games safer, and the collection of this data will continue to prove key as we work toward those goals.”