We examined recent population-based data from the National Health Interview Survey, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and state-based traumatic brain injury (TBI) surveillance programs that provide estimates of the overall incidence of sports-related TBI in the United States. Available data indicate that sports-related TBI is an important public health problem because of the large number of people who incur these injuries each year (approximately 300,000), the generally young age of patients at the time of injury (with possible long-term disability), and the potential cumulative effects of repeated injuries. The importance of this problem Indicates the need for more effective prevention measures.
The public health approach can guide efforts in injury prevention and control. The steps in this approach are (1) identifying the problem, (2) identifying risk factors, (3) developing and testing interventions, and (4) implementing programs and evaluating outcomes. Each of these steps requires adequate data. This article examines the limitations of current sports-related TBI data and suggests ways to improve data in order to develop more effective injury prevention strategies. The impact of sports-related TBI on the public indicates that this task deserves a high priority.