Rates of concussion among college students are more than twice as high as previously thought and are much more likely to happen off the sports field than on, according to a new study recently published in JAMA Network Open.
The research, which assessed student health data from the University of Colorado Boulder, also found that concussion is slightly more prevalent among females and that it occurs most frequently in the month of August.
Study author, John Breck, says the findings show how common head injuries are among this population and that concussions are not restricted to the athletic field: "Student health centers around the country should be training their staff in concussion recognition and putting systems in place to help concussed students get the evaluation and treatment they need."
The study is one of the first to assess concussion rates among the overall college-age population. The researchers monitored diagnoses made during the academic year at the Wardenburg Student Health Center between August 2015 and May 2018 and also used data from the CU Sports Medicine department for varsity athletes who were treated between 2016 and 2018.
The team found that among approximately 30,000 public university undergraduates, about 340 concussions were diagnosed every year, giving an incidence rate of around one in 75 students annually.
Forty-one percent of students who were diagnosed said they had already sustained between one and three concussions, and 5% said they had already sustained at least four.
Across all three years assessed and whether varsity athletes were included or not, concussions unrelated to sports were more common than sport-related ones.
When varsity athletes were not included, 64% of concussions were found to be unrelated to sports, and the rest occurred during organized competitive sports sessions. Thirty-eight percent of concussions resulted from falls, 8.5% were caused by hits to the head, and 6.5% were the result of motor vehicle accidents.
When varsity athletes were included, the incidence of sport-related concussion was 51 per 10,000 students per year, and for concussion unrelated to sport, it was 81 per 10,000 students per year.
In total, the incidence of concussion was 132 per 10,000 students per year.