Rather than being cause for alarm, the researchers say increased awareness and better diagnosis of brain injuries such as concussions could partially explain the increase.
The researchers, led by Dr. Jennifer Marin of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, analyzed data from more than 950 hospitals around the United States and found that there were 2.5 million E.R. visits in 2010, a 29 percent increase from 2006. During the same period of time, the total number of emergency department visits only rose by 3.6 percent.
Concussions and “unspecified injuries” accounted for most of the increase in traumatic brain injury visits and the largest increase was seen in children younger than 3 and adults older than 60.
The majority of the brain injuries were considered minor and most of the patients were not admitted to the hospital for long-term treatment, according to the report published in the May 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The researchers also indicated that the increase in brain injuries specifically among very young children and seniors suggests their not as likely to benefit from prevention efforts such as helmet laws, concussion reduction strategies, and improved sports safety practices.