Sports Head Injuries

Athletes can injure their heads in many ways in most all sports. Injuries can range from concussion, broken nose, and fractured or dislocated jaw, broken or knocked out teeth, nasal injuries to brain injuries.

Head injuries can be the most serious ones suffered by a sports player. They are the most common cause of athletic death. The most common athletic head injury is concussion. The leading cause of head injury death in sports is intracranial hemorrhage. It is important to be able to rapidly assess the extent of sport injuries suffered by an athlete and to get prompt medical attention.


The cause of most head injuries in adult athletes is the result of improper playing techniques. To prevent head injuries it is important to condition the neck prior to play, teaching of proper skills and enforcement of safety rules, proper protective headgear, and careful medical supervision at all times of athletes especially those in contact sports.

Second Impact Syndrome

In the U.S. there is an estimated 300,000 sports related traumatic brain injuries that are from mild to moderate degree of severity each year. Second Impact Syndrome is when repeated head trauma occurs with probably concussions that are separately mild but in adding the effect they have together they can be fatal. Second Impact Syndrome results from acute, brain swelling that occurs when a second concussion is sustained before a first concussion is healed. This causes vascular congestion and an increased amount of intracranial pressure. Headache is a usual symptom.

Sports in which a blow to the head is common are: boxing, baseball, basketball, football, ice or roller hockey, soccer and snow skiing.

Head injuries suffered while playing sports can cause physical, cognitive, and social changes. Recovery can also be a lifelong process where the individual and the family must make adjustments. Impairments can include difficulties with memory, concentration, and deficits in organizational and reasoning skills, the ability to learn, cognitive skills, and not being able to achieve executive functions.


Recovery from a head injury can take a long time, be inconsistent and involve many setbacks. The ramifications to loved ones and family includes economic loss and emotional trauma.

Children age 14 and younger can also suffer from head injuries as a result of playing sports. The following sports are the top ten sports where head injuries are occurring in children of this age: cycling, football, baseball and softball, basketball, skateboarding, water sports, powered recreational vehicles, soccer, and trampolines.

Boxers suffering from head injury can suffer speech difficulty, stiffness, unsteadiness, memory loss and inappropriate behavior according to several studies. Bicycle-related head injuries were approximately 65,000 in the U.S. alone in 2006.

It is estimated that wearing a SNELL, ANSI or ASTM-approved helmet can prevent 85% of bicycle head injuries. 52% of kids ages 5 – 14 do not use a bicycle helmet. Children wearing poorly fitting helmets are twice as likely to have a head injury in a bicycle crash as children who wear helmets that fit properly.

Football related head injuries resulted in 44 deaths from 1995 to 2004 in the U.S.

Three of five equestrian accident deaths are due to head injuries.

A CPSC statistic shows that 40% of soccer concussions are head to player contact and 10.3% are had to ground, goal post or wall contact and 12.6% are head to soccer ball contact.