Jim Nantz on Face The Nation: "Women's Soccer Players Are Two and a Half Times More Likely to Get Concussions than Football Players." Where's the Proof?



Jim Nantz went on “Face the Nation” Sunday morning and made the following claim, with Roger Goodell also on set: “[r]esearch shows that at the college level, a women’s soccer player is two and half times more likely to suffer a concussion than a college football player. I don’t hear anyone saying right now, ‘should we put our daughter in these soccer programs?'”

That is an incredible claim. It’s one thing to defend a buddy and make claims that are opinions in support of him, it’s another to go on a national television program and throw out a number that women’s soccer players are 2.5 times more likely to get a concussion than football players. Where’s the proof?

He cites “research.” Is it published somewhere? If it is, I cannot find any reference to it. I’ve searched for several hours and haven’t turned up any particular study that comes close. I’ve found others that involve research on concussions in college and high school, but cannot find any that are anywhere close to this number.

Here’s what I can generally say, based on reviewing the research. Female athletes appear to be more likely to sustain concussions within the same sport as males. This is true for basketball and soccer, according to multiple sources. CBS News, in fact, the same network where this appeared, had previously reported 64% increases for soccer by women vs. their male counterparts, and 300% in women’s basketball vs. men’s basketball. (Here’s another book excerpt with similar discussions). There is also reference that women have a higher traumatic brain injury rate in car wrecks, and that is about 2.5 times more likely, the only time I can find a similar number.

I did find one study, Concussions Among Collegiate and High School Athletes from 2007 in the Journal of Athletic Training. That found women’s soccer concussion rates basically equal to men’s football in college, but not high school. It reported rates of 6.3 per 10,000 exposures in women’s soccer vs. 4.9 for men’s soccer and 6.1 per 10,000 for men’s football. In high school, the rates for football were higher than both women’s and men’s soccer. That’s the most extreme case I can find, basically putting the concussion rates in the same range in college. It’s one study, and it is certainly not 2.5 times more, which would be incredible. Here’s a story from two days ago, citing the CDC in saying that high school football concussion rates are three times greater than the second highest sport, women’s soccer.

Here’s what the authors of that 2007 study that found slightly higher rates in college women’s soccer, by the way, said about reported concussion rates:

"One possible explanation for the observed sex differences in concussion rates is biomechanical differences. Barnes et al suggested that differences in concussion symptoms between male and female soccer players may be due to smaller head to ball ratios or weaker necks. . . . Cultural explanations may also play a role in the observed sex differences in concussion rates. Traditionally, US society has tended to be more protective of female athletes. This may lead coaches, ATs, and parents to treat head injuries in female athletes more seriously or to delay their return to play. Similar cultural tendencies may encourage male athletes to play despite injuries or to avoid reporting injuries, particularly in certain sports."

Certain sports may not be code word for football, but it very well could be, where we just saw the team in the Super Bowl playing with a quarterback who replaced another due to a reported concussion. I will note that according the trustworthy NCAA, the concussion rates were only 2.5 per 10,000 exposures, (still higher than rates in other sports) which would be way below the 2007 study linked above. The NCAA, of course, would have no reason to underreport concussion data relative to other independent studies when it came to football (sarcasm font). I suppose you could keep the women’s soccer rate in that study, but instead use the NCAA rate for football, and get—2.52. Hmmm. But that would be a completely inappropriate and illegitimate use of those differing numbers.

Here’s Concussion, Inc. author Irv Mushnick quoting Spiral of Denial author Matt Chaney

"“Jim Nantz is a clown. His numbers are skewed for brain trauma in head-knocking football versus women’s soccer at colleges — like the bogus NCAA report last fall, allegedly documenting a mere 2.5 concussions for every 1,000 contact exposures in the game. Ridiculous. Considering the so-called symptoms of concussion — which aren’t scientifically defined or established, by any stretch yet — I had a brain trauma every time I suited up in full-contact college football, three to four days weekly during season."

So I’m left, after looking at all this, wondering where CBS’ number one play by play man came up with this 2.5 times more likely number. I can’t find it. It’s easy to provide talking points in blurbs, and a quick search shows this was a popular talking point for some conservative blogs, but it takes a lot longer to refute them. I’ve spent a few hours where Nantz took seconds with a larger pulpit. So Jim Nantz, where is the support for this claim?

We would like to see it.