INDIANAPOLIS, IND., May 22, 2007 – Since 1982 the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have collaborated to create the largest ongoing collegiate sports injury database in the world. In a special spring issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, the quarterly scientific publication of NATA, the lead authors of “Collegiate Athletic Injuries – Trends and Prevention” present the latest findings from 16 years of NCAA Injury Surveillance System (ISS) information, collected by athletic trainers and covering 15 collegiate sports.
The report comes at a time when participation in collegiate athletics is higher than ever. In fact, between 1988-1989 and 2003-2004, participation has increased 80 percent among women and 20 percent among men. Nationally, more than 380,000 student-athletes participate in NCAA sports that offer national championships.
“The comprehensive information in this ongoing report has and will continue to shape key decisions regarding health and sports safety issues across the U.S.,” said Randall (Randy) W. Dick, MS, FACSM, associate director of research for the NCAA’s Injury Surveillance System and a lead author of the report. “The findings can help improve athletic programs and the quality of care received by student athletes.”
“The research shows that collegiate sports are generally safe,” said Christopher D. Ingersoll, PhD, ATC, FACSM, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Athletic Training, and the Joe H. Gieck Professor of Sports Medicine, University of Virginia. “Injuries do occur, but our understanding of when, why and how these injuries happen will help certified athletic trainers and the NCAA make participation even safer for student-athletes in the future.”
The report’s authors noted several factors that if addressed through injury prevention initiatives may contribute to lower injury rates.
Among the key findings across all sports over 16 years (1988-1989 through 2003-2004) were the following:
- More than half of all collegiate athletic injuries were to the lower extremities.
- Preseason practice injury rates were two to three times higher than injury rates recorded during the regular seasons.
- Competition injury rates were higher than practice.
- Rates of concussions and ACL injuries increased significantly, likely due in part to improved reporting and identification of these injuries.
Additional general findings:
- Competition injury rates did not change substantially over time (though competition rates appear to be declining over the past few years).
- Several sports showed decreased competition injury rates, including women’s gymnastics, basketball and field hockey. Spring football and women’s basketball practice injury rates also decreased.
- Sports involving contact and collision, such as football and wrestling, had the highest injury rates in both games and practices; whereas men’s baseball had the lowest rate of injuries in practice and women’s softball the lowest rate in games.
- Sports that inherently limit or prohibit player contact, such as men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, and women’s ice hockey, still have a significant number of injuries caused by player contact.
“The report provides injury prevention suggestions for several general and sport-specific areas, which if broadly implemented can make collegiate sports even safer,” said Jennifer M. Hootman, PhD, ATC, FACSM, section editor of the Journal of Athletic Training, epidemiologist, Division of Adult and Community Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a lead author of the report. Recommendations include the following:
- Prophylactic ankle taping and bracing.
- Balance-training exercise programs.
- Neuromuscular conditioning.
- Data driven rule and policy changes and subsequent evaluation.
Robert L. Howard Jr., MA, ATC, head athletic trainer, University of Connecticut, and one of the hundreds of certified athletic trainers who collected the data, finds great value in having real-time information: “The research provided us with critical insights on how to treat and prevent injuries with our own teams. It helps that we are practicing the most up-to-date methods of care and prevention. Having access to a national network like this is vital to our profession and collegiate sports.”
Dennis (Denny) A. Miller, MS, ATC, director of sports medicine, Purdue University and a former NATA president, used the ISS information to spearhead the NATA’s “Appropriate Medical Coverage of Intercollegiate Athletics” recommendations originally published in 2000 and recently updated in 2007. “These data provided us with the base of information on which to shape our guidelines. It is essential to have this type of system in place to continue tracking trends and injury prevention measures.”
Several changes in collegiate sports policies and rules have been made over the years, based on the results of the ISS. For example, the NCAA has made modifications in preseason football, in order to reduce heat illness and general injury risk. Rules have been put in place to reduce incidence of concussions in ice hockey, and there has been an increased focus on noncontact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prevention efforts, particularly for female athletes who appear at greater risk.
Results of the surveillance information were based on a sampling of NCAA Division I, II and III schools representing approximately 15 percent of schools sponsoring each of the following sports: fall and spring football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, women’s gymnastics, men’s wrestling, men’s baseball, women’s softball, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Data collection for women’s ice hockey began in 2000-2001. In 2004 the ISS converted to a Web-based interface program, which reflects the continued commitment to this project by providing a real-time electronic athletic-training facility record for each institution that simultaneously contributes to the aggregate national database.
Disclaimer: The recommendations associated with the report summaries are those of the invited authors and do no necessarily represent the views of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA):
Athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. NATA advocates for equal access to athletic trainers for athletes and patients of all ages, and supports H.R. 1846. www.nata.org.
About the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
The NCAA is a membership-led nonprofit association of colleges and universities committed to supporting academic and athletic opportunities for more than 380,000 student-athletes at more than 1,000 member colleges and universities. Each year, more than 49,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA Championships in Division I, II and III sports. For more information, go to www.ncaa.org.