Rise in Emergency Room Visits for Sports-Related Concussions

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Young Skateboarder

Source: Ernst Moeksis

Increased awareness of some injuries doesn’t translate to less emergency room visits. So is the case of concussions, as more children are being admitted to ERs across the country for the injury than ever before.

According to pediatricians from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, since 2001 the number of children admitted to emergency rooms for sports-related injuries has shot up over 90 percent. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are the cause for 630,000 emergency room visits each year, 68,000 of which require hospitalization.

Sports has become a major contributor to these injuries, as kids are participating in contact sports at younger ages, but there may be another source for the increased medical attention. Parents are much more aware of the health problems concussions can lead to later in life, and they are beginning to take them more seriously. This might be encouraged by the heightened media coverage of the condition.

The NFL has had a very public issue with concussions including a large lawsuit recently settled with more than 4,500 former players. The NCAA also has looming concussion suits facing them.

The researchers, led by Dr. Holly Hanson, conducted a retrospective analysis of patients from 2002 to 2011 to evaluate what the cause was for the concussions coming into Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Of the more than 25,000 children who visited an emergency room following a TBI over the last decade, roughly 15 percent, or nearly 3,900 cases, were caused by sports. CBS News reports nearly three-quarters of the children were males.

The researchers noted a 92 percent spike in the number of TBI-related ER visits, but they did not see a rise in the number of children admitted to the hospital after injury. This indicates there is no rise in children being seriously injured, also implying parents are simply more likely to have their child checked out after a hard hit to the head.

The study, published in the Sept 30. issue of Pediatrics, noted the sports most responsible for hospital admittance were skiing, sledding, and rollerblading or skateboarding. These sports tend to be less regulated and are done without the guidance of coaches or trainers to enforce safe practices.

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