As many as 2 million children experience concussions in kid’s sports or play activity every year according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics this week. However, the researchers say the numbers are hard to estimate as there has not been a reliable count of brain injuries in children younger than 18.
In an attempt to estimate how common concussions are in children, researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s, along with collaborators at the University of Colorado reviewed three large collections of data to provide what they say is “the most accurate and precise estimate to date.”
“This new information gives us a frame of reference for how common concussions in kids are,” said lead author Dr. Mersine Bryan, an acting instructor and research fellow in pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“It’s important on a population level because so many kids and adolescents participate in sports and recreational activities,” she added.
The findings estimate that between 1.1 million and 1.9 million concussions occur in children every year during sports and recreation. Unfortunately, the results also showed that between 512,000 to 1.2 million concussions go unreported every year in the same age group.
“The most helpful aspect to this study is it’s startlingly clear how many kids are not being seen in the emergency rooms and are either not seen at all or are going to their family doctors,” said Dr. Brent Masel, national medical director for the Brain Injury Association of America.
Until this study, the most recent large-scale estimate of U.S. concussions in kids came from a 1991 Health Interview Survey. Its report concluded that between 1.6 million and 3.8 million brain injuries occurred every year, however, that number included adults and had significant methodological problems.
For the latest estimate, the teams analyzed data collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a federal database including data from hospital across the U.S. They also used data from MarketScan, a database run by Truven Health Analytics which includes information from commercial health insurance claims from approximately 30 million people in the U.S. The National High School Sports Related Injury Surveillance system, Reporting Information Online, also provided data from its collection tool that tracks injuries reported by athletic trainers.
The researchers say estimating all concussions, rather than exclusively including sports-related concussions, can provide better information about the risks children face. It also shows that potentially serious concussions can happen to children of all ages.
“If parents suspect that their child may have a concussion, they should be in contact with their primary care provider,” Bryan said.