Epidemiology of 10,000 High School Football Injuries: Patterns of Injury by Position Played

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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With more than 1.1 million high school athletes playing annually during the 2005−06 to 2009−10 academic years, football is the most popular boys’ sport in the United States.


Using an internet-based data collection tool, RIO, certified athletic trainers (ATs) from 100 nationally representative US high schools reported athletic exposure and football injury data during the 2005−06 to 2009−10 academic years.


Participating ATs reported 10,100 football injuries corresponding to an estimated 2,739,187 football-related injuries nationally. The injury rate was 4.08 per 1000 athlete-exposures (AEs) overall. Offensive lineman collectively (center, offensive guard, offensive tackle) sustained 18.3% of all injuries. Running backs (16.3%) sustained more injuries than any other position followed by linebackers (14.9%) and wide receivers (11.9%). The leading mechanism of injury was player-player contact (64.0%) followed by player-surface contact (13.4%). More specifically, injury occurred most commonly when players were being tackled (24.4%) and tackling (21.8%).


Patterns of football injuries vary by position. Identifying such differences is important to drive development of evidence-based, targeted injury prevention efforts.

At the time this work was conducted, Badgeley, McIlvain, Yard, and Comstock were with the Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH. Fields was with the Dept of Physical Activity and Educational Services, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.