Because of the sheer physicality of the sport and the popularity of the college and NFL game, talk of concussions typically centers around football.
At Rye High School, an increased focus on preventing and treating head injuries has yielded eye-opening results. Rye's Concussion Management Team, which was formed last year, has found that all athletes are at risk in just about every sport.
"We've found concussions in every single sport at this school," said family nurse practitioner Tracy Barnett, a member of the Concussion Management Team.
Girls lacrosse and cheerleading have shown a high incidence rate of concussions, perhaps equal to or close to that of football, according to Barnett and Melissa Puterio, the school's athletic trainer. Soccer, boys lacrosse, wrestling and basketball were other sports with a notable number of head injuries.
Concussion rates vary depending on the study, but football is typically followed by soccer and basketball with the highest incidence rates. Studies also find that female athletes suffer a higher rate of head injuries than males who play a similar sport.
Rye is one of several schools in the Lower Hudson Valley that began putting more time and energy into tackling the issue of concussions in recent years. And the issue is more than a current talking point. Concussion injuries across all sports have increased from 9.1 percent of high school sports injuries in 2005-06 to 14 percent in 2009-10, according to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study.
To counter the rise and to better treat head injuries, Rye — where 75 percent of the student body participates in at least one sport — requires all of its athletes to participate in the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) program.
The Concussion Management Team also has a checklist to help gauge the severity of a head injury and to make sure requirements are in place before an athlete can return to action.
Another member of the team, athletic director Rob Castagna, said athletes — especially those participating in sports involving far less contact than football — often are skeptical of the school's process at first. But when they see the process first-hand, "they're thankful. Then they trust the procedures in place."
Often, athletes who suffer head injuries while playing sports other than football haven't thought much about concussions beforehand.
"They'll say, 'I didn't know I could get a concussion in this sport,' " Puterio said