Throughout 2011, the media reported widely on the prevalence of concussions and other traumatic brain injury sustained by children and young athletes. A recently released study indicates that as the public’s awareness of this issue increases, the number of young athletes being treated for recreationally-sustained head injurieshas also increased.
The study was commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control and focused on data related to emergency care for children and young athletes during the period of 2001-2009. In 2001, just over 150,000 recreationally-related brain injury visits were reported for this age group. The number of visits jumped to nearly 250,000 in 2009.
Many professionals view these numbers as heartening. The way in which the data was analyzed strongly supports the idea that awareness, not an increase in actual injury occurrence, accounts for the spike in visits. One of the study’s authors noted that “We would like to see the numbers go down because we hope we have gotten better at preventing (head injuries), but we knew the numbers would have to go up before they start to come down because awareness has to go up first.”
This increased awareness of how brain injuries occur, what their symptoms may consist of and why children and young athletes must be promptly treated for them is crucial. Undiagnosed brain injury can lead to increasingly severe second-impact injuries.
While young children are most likely to sustain recreationally-related brain injury from bicycling or a playground accident, young athletes over the age of ten are most likely to sustain injury from collision sports, such as football and soccer.
The number of young Americans who are sustaining brain injuries recreationally is staggering. Tragically, these injuries can lead to developmental problems, chronic pain and even death. Though the public is becoming increasingly aware of the ways in which these injuries are sustained and of why youngsters must be treated for them, even more education, more treatment and more safety mechanisms are necessary in order to keep our nation’s youth safe.