U.S. High School Football Injury Statistics

This comprehensive review of what types of injuries happen on the football field at high schools across America will paint a picture of the risks surrounding this sport.

Of all the contact sports we love to watch, American football can cause the most serious injuries, even when played at the student level. While some parents can’t stomach the risk of injury associated with football, many student athletes across the country participate in high school and college football without suffering catastrophic injuries.

This article will review statistics regarding high school football injuries — from minor scrapes to more severe injuries.

HS football injuries 2018-2019

Notable Statistics:

  • Researchers estimate that 455,449 high school football injuries occurred in the 2018-2019 school year.
  • Head and face concussions are the most common type of high school football injury.
  • Nearly one-fourth of all high school football injuries were sustained while the student was being tackled.
  • Football has the highest overall concussion rate of all high school sports.

Types and Causes of Football Injuries

The Colorado School of Public Health’s Program for Injury Prevention, Education & Research (PIPER) conducts its annual National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study by collecting injury research data from high school athletic trainers. This info includes reports from 100 schools and estimates for all high school athletes.

According to PIPER’s report for the 2018-2019 school year, 1,612 high school football injuries were reported with 927 occurring in competition and 685 during practice. Based on these survey results, PIPER estimated the number of injuries in high schools across the U.S. as 455,449 with 259,317 occurring in competition and 196,132 during practice.Common types of football injuries The PIPER report also included detailed information about the causes of high school football injuries, which is outlined in the chart below.

Strain/Sprain Contusion Fracture Concussion Other Total
Being tackled 33,870 (20.4%) 21,342 (41.2%) 10,725 (27.2%) 28,744 (31.4%) 8,907 (12.2%) 103,588 (24.6%)
Tackling 29,161 (17.6%) 8,757 (16.9%) 9,296 (23.6%) 20,670 (22.6%) 18,548 (25.5%) 86,432 (20.5%)
Blocking 28,584 (17.2%) 4,121 (8.0%) 3,080 (7.8%) 14,219 (15.5%) 8,887 (12.2%) 58,890 (14.0%)
Being blocked 13,019 (7.8%) 3,504 (6.8%) 3,328 (8.4%) 12,854 (14.1%) 4,429 (6.1%) 37,135 (8.8%)
No contact (overuse/illness) 8,264 (5.0%) 0 (0.0%) 432 (1.1%) 0 (0.0%) 16,567 (22.7%) 25,246 (6.0%)
Other 35,153 (21.2%) 7,168 (13.8%) 7,985 (20.2%) 2,454 (2.7%) 9,767 (13.4%) 62,536 (14.8%)
Unknown 17,873 (10.8%) 6,929 (13.4%) 4,623 (11.7%) 12,528 (13.7%) 5,748 (7.9%) 47,701 (11.3%)
Total 165,924 51,821 39,469 91,469 72,853 421,537

When and Where Football Injuries Occur

Of the high school football injuries that occurred during practice in the 2018-2019 school year, more than half took place during the second half of practice. Additional information about the time in practice when injuries were sustained is detailed in the following chart.Football injuries during practice

First 1/2 hour 14,470 7.6%
Second 1/2 hour 28,424 14.9%
1-2 hours into practice 96,845 50.8%
>2 hours into practice 8,688 4.6%
Unknown 42,337 22.2%
Total   190,764 100.0%

For injuries that occurred during competition, PIPER tracked information regarding the time in the competition when the injury was sustained and the field location where it took place. This data is listed in the two charts below.Football injuries during games

Pre-competition/warm-ups 3,750 1.6%
First quarter 25,204 10.7%
Second quarter 70,272 29.9%
Third quarter 70,299 29.9%
Fourth quarter 65,098 27.7%
Overtime 365 0.2%
Total   234,988 100.0%

Where football injuries occur

Between the 20 yard lines 131,601 54.2%
Red zone (20 yard line to goal line) 37,614 15.5%
End zone 3,360 1.4%
Off the field 2,634 1.1%
Unknown 67,471 27.8%
Total   242,680 100.0%

High School Football Concussion Rates

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is caused by an impact to your head or a blow to the body that causes your head and brain to move back and forth rapidly. Sudden movements like this can cause the brain to bounce around in the skull.

In a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, sports medicine researchers reviewed head injury rates among high school athletes. The study looked at the incidence and epidemiology of concussions in 20 different high school sports during the 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 school years, as published in the PIPER reports.

Data collection during this time shows that 9,542 total concussions were reported across the 20 sports analyzed, and 64% of concussions occurred in competition. Of these concussions, a total of 4,183 were suffered by high school football players, with 2,521 (60%) being sustained in competition and 1,662 (40%) happening during practice.

Across all the high school sports reviewed, football had the highest overall concussion rate at 10.40 per 10,000 athlete exposures (AEs). Concussions were much more likely to occur during games, as the concussion rate during practices was only 5.01 per 10,000 AEs, compared with the competition concussion rate of 35.82 per 10,000 AEs.HS football concussion ratesFootball injuries can cause serious damage, and school officials should take precautions to ensure your children stay safe while playing youth sports. If your child was injured playing high school football, you may be able to receive compensation if the school or school employees contributed to the injury.

Most personal injury law firms offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and whether your circumstances support filing a lawsuit. You should schedule a meeting with a lawyer near you as soon as possible after a high school football injury.