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Archive for May 24, 2007

May 24, 2007 — Behind the headlines

A few days ago, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the NCAA released injury information on many sports in the June 2007 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

But in our “News McNuggets” world, many Associated Press subscribers nationwide used a variation of this headline: “Study Says Contact Is Common Cause In Injuries.”

The Jay Leno in me says, “You needed a study to say that?”

Thing is, you have to look behind the headlines in order to understand what is going on. The NATA has studied data in some 15 NCAA sports and have determined that there is a substantial overall rise in injuries in contact sports like ice hockey and football.

But there was also a section studying field hockey data. In the report, study directors representing the NCAA, the University of Minnesota, West Chester, North Carolina, Penn State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have recommended mandatory helmets in the sport of field hockey. In the study, a text of which was obtained by, the narrative does not necessarily support this conclusion.

From 1988 to 2003, the data shows a significant annual decrease in game injury rates. In addition, the data shows significant injury rates in the ankle and knee, as well as the upper hip.

The data shows that 9.4 percent of injuries in field hockey are concussions. Data, however, also shows that almost three-quarters of practice injuries are from no contact with a player, stick, or ball whatsoever.

In the raw data, spread out over 15 years, about 130 head injuries — concussions, lacerations, broken noses, etc. — reported. That’s less than 10 per year.

And in game situations, 10 concussions were reported that resulted in more than 10 days of “activity time loss,” a measure which attempts to quantify the severity of a particular injury. Remember: this is over a 15-year period.

And for this, there is a recommendation for helmets?

Not one of the other studies in the June 2007 issue makes a blanket call for fundamental changes in rules and equipment. Not in baseball, where batted balls have killed some pitchers because of aluminum bats. Not in lacrosse, where a Cornell player was killed a few years ago from a blow to the chest. Not in softball, where a high-school team in Garden City, Mich. has required some of its fielders to wear full-face helmets.

Then again, I hadn’t seen a study in which one of this website’s editorials was cited.

I was shocked when I saw the citation next to the phrase, “Resistance to mandated head and facial protective equipment within the sport is likely to be considerable.”

And the John Paul Jones in me says, “We have not yet begun to fight.”

We’ll take a closer look at some of these injury studies and compare their tone, texture, and statistics with that of the field hockey study in the coming weeks.