Rugby What you should know about the latest research on youth sports and concussions

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This is an Inside Science story.

(Inside Science) — A panel of experts studying past research on the risk of concussion in youth contact sports concluded that for most sports, including football and soccer, there is no clear evidence to indicate an age at which kids should begin activities associated with potential brain injury risks, such as tackling in football and heading the ball in soccer.

They also concluded that there is limited evidence to indicate that “modern helmets differ in their ability to reduce the risk of concussion” in youth football or that current headgear sometimes used in youth soccer reduces concussion risk.

The team of 13 researchers published their report yesterday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. They surveyed medical literature on sports-related concussions in youth, then used the evidence they found to make specific recommendations for many sports, such as guidelines regarding the amount of contact in youth football practices.

The researchers also noted when current research did not offer enough evidence to make a clear recommendation. In addition, they identified glaring needs for research on important questions that have not yet been widely studied.

Their approach required that all panelists rate the evidence for each conclusion or recommendation in the paper at least as high as seven on a nine-point scale. They did this, said pediatrician Frederick Rivara of the University of Washington’s School of Medicine and Sports Institute, in Seattle, to “emphasize to the people that what we’re really doing is trying to base this on evidence rather than expert opinion, and acknowledging where there are holes in the evidence, because there are lots of holes.”

The research brought together observations that others had made previously, including that the rates of concussion in contact and collision sports such as football and hockey are higher than for other sports, and that adolescent females have higher rates of reported concussions than adolescent males for sports such as soccer and basketball.

Despite the information that is available on these topics, they said, it was not completely clear how sex, age and risk of sports-related concussion were related. This meant that

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