Concussion Rates Have Doubled Among U.S. Kids
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2016 Jul 13
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedlinePlus.
Concussion rates are rising sharply among U.S. kids and teens, researchers report.
The study, which looked at health insurance claims for almost 9 million Americans, found that concussion diagnoses more than doubled between 2007 and 2014.
The big question is whether the increase reflects a true rise in the number of injuries or an increase in diagnoses -- or both.
The most significant jump was seen among 10- to 14-year-olds, whose injury rate more than tripled, the study found. They were followed closely by 15- to 19-year-olds.
The causes of those concussions are unknown, according to lead researcher Dr. Alan Zhang, of the University of California, San Francisco.
But, he said, head injuries from sports and other physical activities -- such as bike riding and skateboarding -- are likely the main drivers.
Past studies have pointed to similar spikes in concussions among children and teens. But, Zhang said, they've focused on specific groups, like high school athletes.
"Our study looked at a broad cross-section of the population," he noted.
In recent years, Zhang said, the issue of sports-related concussion has received growing attention. So parents, coaches and young athletes are all getting more education on how to recognize and respond to a possible concussion.
Since 2009, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws targeting concussion in high school and younger athletes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The regulations, often called "return-to-play" laws, typically require kids to be immediately removed from a game if a concussion is suspected. They also usually require a doctor's OK before a concussed athlete can return to the sport, according to the CDC.
According to the CDC, more than 248,000 U.S. children and teens land in the emergency room each year because of a concussion sustained in sports or recreational activities. But that figure only captures kids taken to the ER.
For the new study, Zhang's team used records from more than 8.8 million people in one large health insurance plan. The investigators found that nearly 44,000 were diagnosed with a concussion between 2007 and 2014.
Overall, 10- to 19-year-olds accounted for one-third of those diagnoses. Older teens sustained concussions at a rate of 16.5 for every 1,000 patients; that figure was 10.5 per 1,000 among 10- to 14-year-olds.
Kids in those age groups also showed the biggest increase in concussion diagnoses over time. While the rate rose 160 percent across all age groups, it spiked by 243 percent among 10- to 14-year-olds, and by 187 percent among older teenagers.
Still, both Zhang and Podell cautioned parents against getting overly alarmed. That's partly because most kids recover from a concussion with no problems -- and partly because physical activity is healthy.
"Sports and exercise are definitely beneficial for kids. We want them to be active," Zhang said.
But, he added, parents should take precautions, such as making sure their kids wear helmets when they're biking, skating or skateboarding, for example.