New CU Boulder study shows majority of undergrad concussions not sports-related


Farrand Hall, CU Boulder

Data pix.

BOULDER, Colo. -- A new study from the University of Colorado Boulder has revealed student concussions are more common than originally thought.

One in every 75 undergraduate students sustained a concussion each academic year, according to the three-year study.

Many associate concussions with sports.

“I guess like football players — even like the big movies that came out -- mostly about that,” said Freshman Maia Thompson when asked where concussions were most common on campus.

However, the new study says the majority of undergrad student concussions happen off the field.

“I think the awareness is there. Sadly, I think most of the awareness is on sports-related concussion and not concussion in general,” said Dr. John Breck, who was the lead author of the study.

Breck is also the lead physician at CU’s Medical Services Center on campus.

“We started noticing we were seeing a lot of concussions and seeing more than we expected, honestly. And we went looking for data to see if anyone else had noticed this trend, and we couldn’t find any,” Breck explained.

He says the study is one of the first — if not the only — of its kind. It revealed about 340 concussions are diagnosed each year on campus, out of roughly 30,000 undergrads.

“That’s crazy. It’s more than you would think,” said Thompson.

Researchers found that when excluding varsity athletes, only 36% of concussions happened during competitive or organized sports.

The rest happened off the field — with falls -- like slipping on the ice or crashing on skateboards -- being the most common culprit.

That didn’t come as a surprise to Addison Giddings, who says skateboards are a popular — but at times, dangerous — way to get around campus.

“When you’re just going through campus, there’s people everywhere. Or you hit a rock, you go flying. It happens often,” Giddings told FOX31.

“There are usually a lot of skateboarders,” said Thompson. “I actually have a friend and that happened to him. He was skateboarding down a hill and he got a concussion that way. He went to the hospital and everything.”

Breck says it’s an issue they’ve tried to address in the past.

“We’ve tried to get more students involved. We actually had a program where we brought in free helmets for students who sustained a concussion, and we didn’t get as many takers as we had hoped,” he said.

Another part of the study included varsity (collegiate) athletes in the numbers.

They found that for every 10,000 undergrad students, 51 of them came in for a sports-related concussion each year.

But 81 other students in that same sample size suffered a concussion from something else.

“I think that’s the main thing at this point is making sure students can be evaluated and making sure they’re getting the support from teachers, from disability services — which they are,” Breck said.

Breck says the next step is making a big push to evaluate pedestrian safety on campus.

He would also like to see similar studies emerge in the coming years to better pinpoint the problem.

“Now that we have this basic data, the hope is to work with other universities around the nation to say, ‘Hey, are you seeing this too? Is this a Boulder issue? Is this a collegiate health issue?' I think probably what we’ll notice is this is more of a collegiate health issue than a Boulder issue," Breck said.

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