A recent increase in sport-related brain injuries among youth athletes is causing U.S. health officials to call for public policy changes, supported by the reduction in head-trauma deaths from motor vehicle accidents which came from similar public policy changes.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report today stating that children under 19 suffering traumatic brain injury have increased by 60 percent from 2001 to 2009, and suggesting that the 40 percent drop in 1980 in traumatic brain injury deaths from car crashes should serve as the mold for initiatives aimed at contact sports such as football.
While the number of athletes arriving in emergency rooms with brain trauma under the age of 19 has risen, deaths from brain injury among teens between 15 and 19 have dropped by half from 1999 to 2010, according to Bloomberg.
I personally question whether we need national level legislature as more and more research is being published that constantly changes our understandings of traumatic brain injury and the best ways to manage it. I also question whether the rise of teens in emergency rooms for brain injuries going up is as bad as it sounds, or if it reflects the increased awareness we all have about TBI and concussions. Not too many years ago, the common response to “being knocked silly” was to rest and go back to normal life, but now any heavy hit on a sports field will likely result in at least being pulled to the sidelines for evaluation, if not a trip to the hospital.
Either way, heightened interest in the safety of our children from U.S. agencies is a positive sign that we will see increased preventative measures put in place and more money for researchers hoping to protect the brains of children and athletes everywhere.