Study: More Kids at ER for Sports-Related Brain Injuries

A new study shows that almost twice as many kids are visiting emergency rooms with sports-related head injuries these days, compared with the number from 10 years ago. The study, titled Emergency Department Utilization Trends in Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injury, was just released online in the journal “Pediatrics.” But while the numbers show a big uptick in visits to the ER, the trend for admissions to the hospital remains largely unchanged.

Here are some highlights from the study:

  • Data included kids up to 19 years of age who visited Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s emergency room or trauma center from 2002 to 2011.
  • Hospital registries were analyzed to determine how many of those children were admitted and given a primary or secondary diagnosis of traumatic brain injury.
  • Participation in a sports activity was found to have prompted 15.4 percent of these ER visits.
  • Just over 90 percent of kids were checked out and discharged, while just over nine percent were admitted.
  • ER visits for sports-related TBIs increased 92% over the study period, but there was no significant change in the percentage of children who were admitted.

It is highly unlikely that kids are actually suffering twice as many brain injuries as they did 10 years ago, or that the injuries they are sustaining are more serious all of a sudden. More than anything else, studies like this one probably illustrate the vastly increased amount of attention being paid to head injuries, especially concussions, everywhere from the playground to the NFL. (More: NFL and Players Reach $765M Concussion Settlement.)

10 years ago, parents may not have been all that in tune with the significant risks that could come if their child hit their head in gymnastics or had their “bell rung” colliding with a teammate on the soccer field. These days, a justifiable abundance of caution is being exercised when it comes to sports-related head injuries.