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High School Sports Injury Surveillance System Now in 10th Year

By Juli Doshan on March 10, 2015 hst Print

It has been 10 years since the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System Study (High School RIO™) was established to provide the NFHS with a snapshot of the types of injuries occurring in high school sports. Since it began in the 2005-06 school year, High School RIO™ has remained the only surveillance study of all time-loss injuries in a national sample of high school athletes and has expanded from nine sports to a comprehensive report of 22 sports.

“I have been incredibly impressed with the commitment and professionalism of the certified athletic trainers who have participated in the High School RIO™ study over the past decade,” said Dr. R. Dawn Comstock, who has been in charge of the project from the start. “They have helped to build the largest and only decade-long, ongoing dataset of high school sports injuries to date. With their strong support, the High School RIO™ study has collected a very large amount of very detailed data on high school sports-related injuries.”

Modeled after the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program, High School RIO™ relies on weekly reports from certified athletic trainers across the country. These reports include any injury sustained by an athlete during the week and include the athlete’s age, height, weight and what position he/she plays, as well as the severity of the injury, where it occurred on the athlete’s body and the final diagnosis. Trainers also take note of the location of the injury event, the amount of time the student has to rest and whether the injury occurred during practice or competition, which is taken into account along with the total number of practices and competitions during the week.

The data is entered into an online system and Comstock and her staff at the Colorado University School of Public Health analyze it to determine the rates, patterns and trends of high school sports-related injuries. Comstock then provides this data in reports to the NFHS and its respective sport committees. The committees use the data when considering a rules change or when evaluating the effectiveness of a previous rules change.

“My goal is to capture data from a sample of at least 100 U.S. high schools from a wide geographic distribution for each of the 22 sports currently under surveillance. High School RIO™ currently meets or exceeds that goal for many sports, but also falls far short of that goal for others,” Comstock said. “For example, it has annually been a struggle to enroll schools to report data on boys ice hockey, girls field hockey, and boys and girls lacrosse. This means not only do I have less information to share with the NFHS for these sports, but also that the data I capture on these sports may be less generalizable to the total population of U.S. high school athletes playing these sports.

“This is crucial because we want to be sure that any group using High School RIO™ data to drive evidence-based decision-making regarding athlete health and safety feels comfortable that any decisions they make based on High School RIO™ data will be as likely as possible to have the same impact on all affected high school athletes.”

Last year, more than 1,000 schools participated in the survey. Schools don’t have to report on all 22 sports, but rather 10 randomly-selected sports that they offer. They also receive monetary compensation for participating in the survey. 

For more information or to participate in next year’s study, click here.