Tackling causes and costs of ED presentation for American football injuries: a population-level study

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Abstract

Background:

American tackle football is the most popular high-energy impact sport in the United States, with approximately 9 million participants competing annually. Previous epidemiologic studies of football-related injuries have generally focused on specific geographic areas or pediatric age groups. Our study sought to examine patient characteristics and outcomes, including hospital charges, among athletes presenting for emergency department (ED) treatment of football-related injury across all age groups in a large nationally representative data set.

Methods:

Patients presenting for ED treatment of injuries sustained playing American tackle football (identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification code E007.0) from 2010 to 2011 were studied in the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample. Patient-specific injuries were identified using the primary International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis code and categorized by type and anatomical region. Standard descriptive methods examined patient demographics, diagnosis categories, and ED and inpatient outcomes and charges.

Results:

During the study period 397 363 football players presented for ED treatment, 95.8% of whom were male. Sprains/strains (25.6%), limb fractures (20.7%), and head injuries (including traumatic brain injury; 17.5%) represented the most presenting injuries. Overall, 97.9% of patients underwent routine ED discharge with 1.1% admitted directly and fewer than 11 patients in the 2-year study period dying prior to discharge. The proportion of admitted patients who required surgical interventions was 15.7%, of which 89.9% were orthopedic, 4.7% neurologic, and 2.6% abdominal. Among individuals admitted to inpatient care, mean hospital length of stay was 2.4 days (95% confidence interval, 2.2-2.6) and 95.6% underwent routine discharge home. The mean total charge for all patients was $1941 (95% confidence interval, $1890-$1992) with substantial injury type–specific variability. Overall, at the US population, estimated total charges of $771 299 862 were incurred over the 2-year period.

Conclusion:

In this nationally representative sample, most ED-treated injuries associated with football were not acutely life threatening and very few required major therapeutic intervention. This study provides a cross-sectional overview of ED presentation for acute football-related injury across age groups at the population level in recent years. Longitudinal studies may be warranted to examine associations between the patterns of injury observed in this study and long-term outcomes among American tackle football players.

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