Incidence of Combat Sport-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries Presenting to the Emergency Department From 2012 to 2016

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Abstract

Objectives:

We sought to investigate the incidence and characteristics of traumatic brain injuries [mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI)] presenting to the emergency department as a result of boxing, wrestling, and martial arts (MA).

Design:

Retrospective cross-sectional study of MTBI in combat sport athletes who were evaluated in emergency departments in the United States.

Setting:

Patient data were taken from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Participants:

All patients with MTBI from 2012 to 2016, which occurred during participation in boxing, MA, or wrestling.

Interventions:

None.

Main Outcome Measures:

The incidence of combat sport-related MTBI presenting to emergency departments in the United States.

Results:

The mean annual incidence of MTBI due to wrestling was significantly larger (269.3 per 100 000 person-years) than boxing (85.6 per 100 000 person-years) and MA (61.0 per 100 000 person-years) (P < 0.01). The average age at injury was significantly lower for wrestling compared with boxing and MA (15.0 years [SD ± 3.9] vs 21.7 years [SD ± 8.2] vs 19.9 years [SD ± 10.5]; P < 0.01). A significantly larger proportion of MTBIs (95.3%; P < 0.01) in patients younger than 20 years were related to wrestling, compared with boxing (55.8%) and MA (54.1%). Most patients with combat sport-related MTBIs were treated and discharged (96.3%), with only 1.7% of patients being admitted and 0.6% of patients being held for observation.

Conclusion:

Combat sports athletes are at high risk of sustaining an MTBI. Such athletes presenting to the emergency department for combat sport-related MTBI were more likely to be male and younger than 20 years. Of these athletes, wrestlers experience the highest incidence of MTBI-related emergency department visits.

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