The number of young athletes who received a traumatic brain injury has soared by 60 percent in the last decade, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Males 19 years old and younger who were injured while playing football or biking accounted for most of the injuries, followed by miscellaneous playground activities, basketball, and soccer.
According to the report, 153,375 cases of TBI were reported by hospital emergency rooms in 2001. In 2009, the number of reported TBIs climbed to 248,418. A likely explanation for the dramatic increase is that awareness of head injuries rose during the same period. More recognition of the signs of TBI and knowledge of its dangers may have compelled more parents and supervisors to take seemingly harmless knocks on the head and concussions more seriously. If that’s the case, then the rise is actually a good thing.
Other sports and activities with the highest number of TBIs are baseball, ATV riding, skateboarding, swimming, and hockey. However, although some sports and activities lead to more TBIs than others, the percentage all injuries that are TBI shows a slightly different picture, with horseback riding, ice skating, golf, ATV riding, and tobogganing / sledding, having the highest ratio of TBIs to personal injury.
Breaking the numbers down into age and sex shows that some youths are more prone to receiving a brain injury in certain activities. While boys suffered more TBIs playing football and riding bikes, the highest TBI-risk activities for girls were playing soccer, basketball, and riding bikes. However, children younger than age 9 were more likely to be injured on the playground than riding bikes, regardless of sex.
According to the CDC, research indicates young athletes with a TBI experience longer recovery times and are at greater risk of serious outcomes compared to adults.
“TBI symptoms may appear mild, but the injury can lead to significant lifelong impairment affecting an individual’s memory, behavior, learning, and/or emotions,” the CDC said, adding that “appropriate diagnosis, management, and education are critical for helping young athletes with a TBI recover quickly and fully.”
Protecting youths from TBI and treating those properly who do sustain a blow or jolt to the head is especially urgent because the child’s brain is “known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI,” according to Richard C. Hunt, M.D., director of CDC′s Division for Injury Response.
CDC report, Nonfatal Traumatic Brain Injuries Related to Sports and Recreation Activities Among Persons Aged ≤19 Years — United States, 2001–2009CDC finds 60 percent increase in youth athletes treated for TBIs