Over at Five Thirty Eight, Walt Hickey has a piece about cheerleading as a sport and injury rates, which is both a nice look at the way to use stats to measure the real danger level of an activity, and the sort of small details that can be teased out. The piece includes a table of injury rates for a wide variety of sports, seen above as the “featured image” and reproduced below. I don’t really have anything much to say about cheerleading, but one thing did jump out at me from the table, leading to the question in the post title.
this table show concussion rates in competition and in practice and includes both boys’ and girls’ sports (“boys” and “girls” rather than “men” and “women” because they’re looking at pre-college sports). There are several sports that are single-gender (football and wrestling don’t have female analogues, field hockey and cheerleading don’t have male analogues, and while there are definitely girls playing ice hockey, I suspect that the number of programs may be too small to pass whatever statistical threshold went into assembling this table), but also some that are paired, and they tend to be sort of close together on the table. Lacrosse, basketball, track, and swimming are all in the same approximate place on the table for both boys and girls.
The exception is soccer. Girls’ soccer has a concussion rate that’s nearly double that for boys. I find that both surprising and puzzling– there’s no significant difference in the rules or equipment for boys and girls, so why would girls’ soccer be more dangerous than boys’? It doesn’t really fit with the other paired sports, either– in lacrosse, the rates are very similar, despite significant rule differences, but the same is true of basketball, which like soccer has very little difference between genders in terms of rules or gear.
It’s also hard to square with the other table in the article, showing rates of severe injury in various sports, where boys’ soccer ranks higher than girls’. Those are measuring different categories of things, though, using different types of stats (rates per participant vs. rates per game/practice), so maybe the comparison isn’t that straightforward.
I have no idea what’s up with this, but it jumps out as the biggest oddity of that table (other than the practice thing relating to cheerleading that’s the actual point of the story, anyway). Are boys better at hiding soccer-induced concussions? Is there something weird about the rules for girls’ soccer that I’ve never noticed before? Is this just a pure statistical fluke?
Leave your favorite theory in the comments, if you like.