New research is suggesting that rates of concussion in younger football players are higher than previously expected.

According to a report released by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute, concussion rates among football players ages five through 14 were higher than previously reported, with five out of every 100 youth, or five percent, sustaining a football-related concussion each season.

The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The report summarizes data collected during two, 10-week fall sessions in partnership with the Northwest Junior Football League.

"Measuring the incidence of concussion in grade-school and middle-school football players is essential to improving the safety of the game," said Dr. Sara Chrisman, an investigator in the research institute's Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development and lead author of the study. "It's hard to determine the impact of prevention efforts if we don't know how often these injuries occur at baseline."

The study was extensive. To provide a more accurate snapshot of concussion incidence, the current study provided licensed athletic trainers for medical surveillance at all NJFL league games and practices during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The athletic trainers helped researchers identify 51 football-related concussions among the 863 youths they followed as part of the study, with 133 of those players participating in the study for two seasons.

In addition to reporting on concussion incidence, researchers found two-thirds of concussions occurred during games, almost half from head-to-head contact. Follow-up surveys found a history of prior concussion was associated with a two-fold greater risk of concussion, and a history of depression was associated with a five-fold greater risk of concussion.

"We're just starting to piece together how factors such as prior injury or depression may contribute to a child’s risk of concussion. Our study revealed patterns about who was most at risk for concussion, and these are areas we hope to explore in future studies," said Chrisman, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.