Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that we want to keep you away from boxing and living an active lifestyle. We just want you to know that not all sports are created equal. Some of them carry a higher risk of injury than others, and there are a few that can deliver a significant blow to your lifestyle, literally.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) deals immediate damage, but chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is permanent—it’s a type of brain degeneration likely caused by repeated blows to the head.
In this article, we’ll go over the most interesting CTE statistics currently available to show how dangerous specific sports can be after years and years of competitive activity. On the other hand, we’ll also try to give a better picture of the main causes behind chronic traumatic encephalopathy and traumatic brain injuries, as well as their short- and long-term effects.
Top Ten TBI and CTE Statistics and Facts:
- TBI affects around 2 million people each year in the US alone.
- Brain trauma-related deaths are the result of self-harm in 33% of cases.
- Nearly one-third of children who suffer brain trauma received a substantial blow to the head.
- Falls are the most common causes of a TBI, statistics show.
- In the US, football takes the first place in causing concussions, with 64–76.8 incidences per 100,000 sporting events and practices.
- Each season, nearly 10% of athletes suffer a concussion in contact sports.
- CTE can also severely impact those who only played football through college.
- Each year, around 275,000 people are hospitalized because of a TBI, and an estimated 52,000 die.
- The financial costs of TBIs could be as high as $76.5 billion annually.
- Men are at least 60% more at risk of suffering from a TBI compared to women.
General Statistics and Facts About TBI
Brain injury stats are never fun, but someone’s gotta do it. Here we present you with a couple of statistics on the number of patients, how dangerous it is and we want you to pay close attention.
1. The traumatic brain injury statistics data pool is substantial: in 2014 alone, 2.87 million people were affected.
Approximately 837,000 of these cases were children. Of this number, TBIs contributed to the deaths of almost 57,000 people, of which 2,529 were underage.
2. In 48% of cases, falls were the main culprit behind TBI injuries in the US.
In 2014, nearly half of all TBI-related emergency cases were falls, affecting mostly older adults and children. 49% of TBI-related emergency department visits were for patients younger than 17 years old, and falls were responsible for 81% of TBI-related emergency visits among adults aged 65 and older.
- TBI stats revealed that in 2014, being struck against or by objects accounted for 17% of all brain trauma-related emergency visits in the US.
This number makes trauma from sustained hits the second leading cause. Furthermore, it affects children younger than 17 in one out of four instances (28%).
4. TBI claims the lives of the elderly in the majority of cases.
According to a larger data pool gathered between 2001 and 2014, adults aged 75 or older are the most prone to lose their life to TBI, with 78.5 deaths per 100,000 people. The next age group (aged 65–74) is only 24.7 in 100,000, and the third group of individuals (those between 55 and 64) counts 19.1 TBI deaths per 100,000.
5. In 2014, one-third of TBI deaths were the result of intentional self-harm.
A rather grim fact from recent traumatic brain injury statistics: in 33% of fatal incidents, the leading cause of brain injury-related deaths were self-inflicted.
6. Financially speaking, TBIs can cost billions of dollars.
(Brain Trauma Foundation) (Knapp & Roberts)
In the US, acquired brain trauma is second on the list of the most prevalent disabilities, affecting around 13.5 million citizens nationwide.
On the other hand, the costs of lost productivity and society care as a direct result of TBI mount up to a staggering $76.5 billion each year. This includes $11.5 million in direct medical costs and another $65 billion in indirect setbacks (like lost wages and non-medical costs).
7. Approximately, 52,000 die from TBI each year.
Around 1.7 million people sustain serious head injuries each year, and nearly 80% of them are treated in an emergency department, while around 275,000 are hospitalized. Lastly, in the case of injury-based fatalities, a traumatic brain injury causes or at least is involved in around 30.5% of recorded cases.
CTE, TBI, and Sports—the Risk of Contact Sports
Before you get upset thinking we’re bashing your favorite sport, hear us out. If you love it—do it.
We’re not here to stop you from pursuing your dream, we just want you to read these stats before you choose to turn your head into a punching bag.
8. High-impact sports are the riskiest, and 80% of boxers suffer at least one concussion during their professional career.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that high impact sports carry a higher risk of repeated head traumas that may lead to the development of CTE in the long run. While every sport can lead to head injuries, there are a few that seem to be statistically more dominant.
Football is well-known to be high-risk in this regard, but even 17% of competitive horseback riding injuries involve trauma to the brain.
9. In the US, football has the highest concussion rate per sport in high schools.
By looking at the number of sports-related concussions and head injury statistics, football takes first place with 64–76.8 incidences per 100,000 sporting events and practices. Second on the list is boys’ ice hockey with 54.
Next, girls’ soccer and lacrosse come in third and fourth place with 33 and 31–35 incidents respectively. To read up on other sports-related injury statistics, this post may provide you with further info.
10. College football head injuries are alarmingly common, with 10 out of 15 players showing signs of CTE.
Last year, Science interpreted the results of a study stating that regarding CTE, football is the most high-risk contact sport. While most cases showed only some features of CTE, the chance of developing the disease was 2.6 times higher for football players when compared to non-athletes, and it was nearly 13 times as high for those who continued to play the sport after high school.
These football CTE statistics show a direct correlation between the duration of involvement with the sport and the development of the condition.
11. Each season, nearly 10% of athletes suffer a concussion in contact sports.
According to research by the CDC, approximately 2.4 million sports-related emergency visits between 2001 and 2005 involved children between 5 and 18 years. In the case of brain injuries, statistics show that 6% of these cases involved a concussion.
The research suggests that for people between 15 and 24, sports-related injuries are the second leading cause of TBIs, right behind motor vehicle crashes.
If you’re concerned that your fitness regimen may cause potential harm to your health, this list or this one might help you prove otherwise. They contain quite a few interesting stats that will reassure you that sports are meant to be safe and healthy.
12.CTE isn’t just an issue for professional athletes.
(Concussion Legacy Foundation)
When taking a closer look at the relationship between CTE statistics and sports, most people would think that CTE primarily affects professional football players. However, data from the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank found CTE diagnoses among former players from 147 different college programs.
Researchers also revealed that CTE was traceable in 94% of study participants who played both in college and professionally. In instances where they only played during college, this value was 86%.
13. When looking at sports-related traumatic brain injuries, statistics show that most cases are mild.
There are only two studies currently available that have investigated the subject of sport-related TBI severity, where researchers classified cases by the Glasgow Coma Score. According to the studies, in New Zealand, 97.6% of the cases were mild, while in Australia, only 67.3% were mild, and 7.7% of cases were classified as severe.
14. Males are at least 60% more at risk of suffering a head injury while playing sports.
Three studies have gathered data based on gender. They found that sports-related brain injury statistics show higher rates among men. In a study from New Zealand, men were 70.4% more likely to suffer a blow to the head while engaging in sports. This value was 75.6% in an American study and 66.1% in a paper published in Austria.
15. In MMA, head injuries are the most common type of injury.
In mixed martial arts, researchers have found that head injuries accounted for the largest number of traumas by anatomic region, with different data values ranging from 67.5% to 79.4%. Researchers also found that a similar pattern can be seen in boxing.
These stats became even more concerning after reviewing 844 telecasted UFC MMA matches where it was found that in 90% of cases, repetitive head strikes caused technical knockouts.
What qualifies as a traumatic brain injury?
(American Association of Neurological Surgeons)
A traumatic brain injury is most often described as a penetrating head injury or a strong blow to the head that impedes normal brain functions. It most often happens when the head suffers a sudden and violent blow or when an object pierces or hits the skull and damages the tissue of the brain.
In milder cases, the injured might suffer a brief change in their state of consciousness. However, in more severe cases, they can remain unconscious for extended periods, enter a coma, or even lose their life.
What percentage of NFL players have CTE?
A study from Boston University’s CTE center from 2017 suggests that CTE is more common among football players than previously thought. Researchers found CTE in 99% of the examined brains of former NFL players. The CTE percentage was 91% and 21% among the brains of college and high school football players, respectively.
While researchers have admitted that their study has several crucial limitations, it still suggests the existence of a strong link between CTE and exposure to football.
Is a traumatic brain injury permanent?
(Family Doctor) (Concussion Legacy Foundation)
The lasting effects of TBI highly depend on the severity of the injury. In milder cases of a traumatic brain injury, the symptoms will go away within a few days or weeks. Worse cases can have more harsh effects, like mood changes, anger, anxiety, or sensitivity.
These cases can also affect short-term memory along with concentration and thinking. Severe examples can lead to permanent brain damage and may even result in death.
On the other hand, CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, can be considered permanent damage, since it’s a type of brain degeneration that’s most likely caused by repeated blows to the head. Currently, the condition can only be diagnosed at autopsy.
What are the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury?
Severe traumatic injuries can cause issues right after they happen, but they can pose a possible threat in the long-term as well. They could cause several physical and emotional problems that can affect a person’s quality of life.
Physical symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, etc., while emotional complications may manifest in the form of anxiety, depression, personality changes, and attention defects.
Is a concussion the same as a traumatic brain injury?
(University of Alabama at Birmingham)
According to professionals from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, doctors usually refer to concussions as a “mild” form of TBI. Both can alter normal brain function for minutes. However, concussions rarely lead to life-threatening consequences.
The standard traumatic brain injury (TBI) meaning refers to injuries that include blows, jolts, or bumps to the head, but with more violent intensity. Based on their severity, they can be mild, or severe. The first one generally has short-term effects while the latter can lead to long-term impairments.
As you can see, the risk involved in sports is pretty high when it comes to brain injuries and their long-term detrimental consequences to your health. Of course, not all TBIs are the direct result of sports accidents—a lot of them happen as a consequence of falls or other types of accidents.
However, we can’t undermine the role sports play in the development of CTE, especially in competitive contact sports. And while the current data available is limited, and research results are often missing important parameters, it’s safe to say that the latest CTE statistics can help shed more light on the disorder.