The number of children and adolescents being treated in emergency rooms for concussions and other brain injuries resulting while playing sports or participating in other recreational activities have increased significantly in the past decade, federal health officials reported Thursday.
The number of children age 19 and younger treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) treated in ERs in the United States increased from 153,373 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009, a 62 percent increase, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The increase appears to be due to a combination of factors, including more kids participating in potentially hazardous activities and adults being more aware of the need to seek treatment for children when they get injured while biking, playing football, basketball, soccer and other games, the CDC said.
“We believe that one reason for the increase in emergency department visits among children and adolescents may be a result of the growing awareness among parents and coaches, and the public as a whole, about the need for individuals with a suspected TBI to be seen by a health care professional,” said said Linda C. Degutis, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Seventy-one percent of those treated were male and 70.5 percent were between the ages of 10 and 19. In that age group, males were most often injured while playing football or biking while females were most often hurt while playing soccer, basketball or biking. Younger children were commonly being injured while playing on a playground or biking, the CDC reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Brain injuries among children have gotten more attention in recent years as research has indicated that young athletes with a brain injury take longer to recover and are at greater risk of serious complications than adults, the CDC said. While brain injuries may appear mild at first, they can lead to “significant life-long impairment affecting an individual’s memory, behavior, learning, and/or emotions,” the CDC said.
“While some research shows a child’s developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI,” Richard C. Hunt, director of CDC’s Division for Injury Response, said in a statement.
The increase in reported injuries indicates that more needs to be done to prevent head injuries and make sure they are treated quickly, the CDC said.