How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

Many people are injured every year in youth, high school, college, and professional football. How often do high school football players get injured?

How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

There are a lot of injuries in high school football – about 450,000 per year. About 120,000 of those injuries require emergency room visits. Contrary to what people would expect, basketball sends more players to the emergency room. 

As a sports physical therapist, I know a lot about football injuries. The game can be dangerous, but it is not as dangerous relative to other sports as people think. High school football is much less dangerous than professional football. 

How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

Researchers estimate there were 455,449 injuries in the 2018-19 school year. Many but not most injuries happen when a player is tackled. The odds of getting a concussion are higher than for other high school sports. 

Football practice is not much less dangerous than a competitive football game. A recent study of 1612 injuries found 927 from competition and 685 from practice. 

What is the Most Injury Prone Sport in High School?

If you look at the total number of significant injuries, basketball is probably the most injury-prone sport. It results in 119,589 trips to the emergency room each year for high-school athletes. 

Football is almost as dangerous, with 118,886 injuries requiring emergency room visits. Most of the 450,000 yearly injuries are not emergencies. 

How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

This is followed by soccer (45,475 emergency room visits) and baseball (27,208). A sport that results in fairly few injuries per year might still be dangerous if it is a less popular sport. 

What is the Most Common Injury in High School Football?

Head and face concussions are the most common injury. Despite improvements in protective equipment, concussions are still fairly common. If a helmet fits poorly, it can cause rather than prevent a concussion. 

What Are the Top 3 Injuries in High School Football?

After head and face concussions (21.% of all injuries) there are ankle sprains and strains (12%) and knee strains and sprains (7.9%). Estimates show 99,036 concussions, 54,618 ankle sprains/strains, and 35,996 knee strains/sprains for high school football players each year. 

What Positions Are the Most Dangerous?

High school football players playing offense are the most likely to get hurt. About 57% of all injuries happen to players in offense positions. 

How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

Running backs and wide receivers are likely to get hurt. Other offense positions are also somewhat dangerous. 

Linebackers are less likely to get hurt (14.7% of all injuries) followed by defensive tackles (9%). Punters and kickers have few injuries. 

Football Injuries for Different Ages

For children, football may be less dangerous than commonly believed. It is less dangerous than many other sports children and young teens play. Professional football is much more dangerous. 

For children aged 5-15, skateboarding is the most dangerous, followed by bicycle riding, soccer, and finally football. Football resulted in 74% fewer injuries than skateboarding, 50% fewer than bicycle riding, and 12% fewer than soccer for children and early teens.

For older people, the injuries get worse, especially at more competitive levels. High school football players have three times the injuries of youth players. College players have five times the injuries and professional players have nine times the injuries of youth players.

Concussions for High School Football Players

Football is responsible for not much less than half of all concussions in high-school athletes. About 44% of reported concussions in 2012-2018 were for football players. 

Deaths from Head Injuries

While severe head injuries occasionally kill high school football players, these deaths are rare. Only 2.4 high school football players die from a traumatic head injury each year. 

Again, professional football is more dangerous. Head injuries only kill a very few NFL players per year, sometimes none, but there are only 1700 NFL players so the death rate is much higher. The sport is more dangerous at higher skill levels and with bigger and stronger players. 

How Often Do High School Football Players Get Injured?

Health Problems from Concussions

Repeated or severe concussions sometimes lead to health problems later in life, including brain diseases. Do high school football injuries cause problems later on?

High school football may be relatively safe. A large 2017 study found that former high school football players have normal levels of cognition and mental health when they are 65. The study also found that former high school football players were more physically active later in life than most people. 

More research is needed to know exactly how dangerous high school football is. Players have gotten stronger since the fifties and sixties, but protective equipment has also improved. Sometimes, better protective equipment might cause players to lead with their heads and in other ways play recklessly.

Is Hockey More Dangerous than Football?

The rate of injury may be higher for high school hockey than for football, although there are far fewer high school hockey players. Falling and hitting a hard ice surface is more dangerous than hitting the relatively soft ground. 

Key Takeaways

  • High school football is much more dangerous than youth football but much less dangerous than professional football. Injuries happen, but they are less common and in some ways less serious than for professional football players. 
  • High school football accounts for many injuries each year, about 450,000. About 120,000 of these injuries lead to emergency room visits. People think of basketball as safer, but it leads to slightly more emergency room visits each year. 
  • Head and face concussions are the most common high school football injuries. 
  • Deaths from head injuries in football are uncommon. Very few or no NFL players die of head injuries per year. High school football also accounts for very few deaths even though there are so many players. 
  • Football can be dangerous, but it is not as dangerous relative to other sports as some people think.

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