Study: Nearly 2 Million Children in the US Suffer Sports-Related Concussions Every Year, Many Go Untreated
Study: Nearly 2 Million Children in the US Suffer Sports-Related Concussions Every Year, Many Go Untreated

Nearly 2 million children in the United States suffer sports- and recreation-related concussions (SRRCs) annually, and many of them may go untreated, according to a recent study.

Concussions, a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), are common in children. Sports and recreation is a leading cause in minors 18 and younger, according to researchers.

Between 1.1 to 1.9 million SRRCs occur every year in children 18 and younger, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Colorado say.

Three databases were used for the study that contained injury information reported to various healthcare settings, including emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient medical providers, and certified high school athletic trainers.

Boys accounted for 58.6 percent of the playground-related incidents, and persons ages 5 to 9 years accounted for 50.6 percent of the injuries. Most of the incidents took place on weekdays—77.9 percent.

The study revealed that most children with SRRCs, from 511,590 to 1,240,972, did not seek treatment.

“There are many reasons kids are not seen in healthcare settings for concussions: issues with identification and recognition of concussions, perceived barriers to reporting concussions,” said the study’s lead author, UW Medicine’s Dr. Mersine Bryan.

“I do not think it is only because concussions are not being taken seriously,” she added.

Researchers called for a better surveillance to better understand the epidemiology of concussions in youth. It is difficult to calculate the incidents of SRRCs, since many don’t receive treatments, or may instead receive care from a variety of providers, including certified athletic trainers, primary care, and emergency medicine physicians.

The Centers for Disease Control released a study in May that showed the annual rate of TBI emergency department visits spiked from 2005 to 2013. The study, which looked at children under age 14, revealed that most of the incidents involved monkey bars and swing sets.

Bryan says parents and coaches need to be aware of concussion symptoms in order to recognize and respond to a child’s head injury. If a minor has symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, the child should be taken to a healthcare provider for diagnosis.

With more than 44 million youths participating in sports activities every year, sports coaches should take precaution when it comes to concussions, Bryan said.  

“Creating a culture of safety while engaging in sports and recreational activities, wearing helmets, and recognizing signs and symptoms of concussions are important steps that parents and coaches can take to protect children,” said Bryan.

She also recommends that if a person believes a child has a concussion, he or she should remove the minor from play and seek medical help.

In November 2015, the US Soccer Federation implemented a ban on heading of soccer balls for players aged 10 and under, while kids ages 11 to 13 are limited to a number of total headers allowed per week, in an effort to reduce injuries.

Bryan saw this as a step forward, but not many agreed, arguing that the heading of a ball is essential to the game.

“We don’t fully understanding the effects of head injuries on the developing brain in children,” said Bryan.

“We need to partner with athletes, coaches, and parents to teach kids how to play sports safely.”

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