Friday, September 10, 2010

Researchers see Rise in Children's-Sports Related Concussions (with comment by Stephen Jamieson)

By Jennifer Corbett Dooren Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The number of concussions suffered by school-age children appears to be rising even as participation in certain organized team sports declines, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study, by researchers at Hasbro Children's Hospital and Brown University, both in Providence, R.I., is the first national look at concussions in school-age kids, who may be more vulnerable to long-term complications from such head injuries than adults.

The study looked at more than 500,000 emergency room visits for concussions in children ages 8-to-19 from 2001 to 2005 with a focus on concussions caused by sports injuries.

Of the approximately 502,000 emergency room visits for concussions, more than 252,000 were sports-related, which included individual sports like bicycling and snow-skiing as well as team sports.

Children ages 8-to-13 had a higher rate of sports-related concussions at 58% than children ages 14-to-19.

The study's lead author, Lisa Bakhos, who is now a pediatric emergency room doctor at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., said that while many studies have been conducted on the impact of concussions among high-school, college and professional athletes, little is known about sports-related concussions in school-age children.

"We really don't know what the long-term consequences [of concussions] are in kids," Bakhos said. Researchers speculate that concussions in the still growing brains of young children may produce more severe long-term developmental and cognitive problems than a similar injury in an adult. A concussion is caused when the brain is jarred from being hit and temporarily interferes with the way brain works, affecting things like memory, balance, judgment and even sleep patterns.

The study also looked at concussions in children and compared them with participation rates in five organized team sports-- baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey and soccer--from 1997 to 2007.

During that decade, participation in those sports declined by about 13%, but concussion-rated emergency room visits related to the same sports rose substantially during the same time period. ER visits for children ages 8-to-13 doubled from about 3,800 to 7,800, and among children ages 14-to-19, visits tripled from about 7,000 to 22,000.

Bakhos said researchers don't know if the reasons behind the increase are that team sports have become more competitive or if it's because of an increase in reporting rates, or both.

She also noted that the study looks at only ER visits for concussions, and so it underestimates the actual concussion rate. The National Institutes of Health estimates there are more than one million concussions annually in both children and adults.

Bakhos said parents shouldn't shy away from letting their kids participate in sports, but should make sure they and coaches are following good prevention strategies such as wearing helmets. While most athletes wear proper helmets and other protective gear during football games for instance, Bakhos said she's seen practices conducted without helmets.

**Comment by Stephen Jamieson**

Hi Jennifer, I read with great interest your article, as well as others that are coming out in other publications.
For years I have represented athletes who were put back in too early by coaches, trainers, and physicians.
Horrible consequences result from the athletes, particularly children, not accurately reporting how they are feeling and the "professionals" simply relying on the child's assessment of their own condition, without giving adequate weight to the fact that these kids want to "go back in" right away.
This has resulted in a number of 5 to 10 million dollar verdicts and settlements. Perhaps these verdicts and settlements, and the liability that goes with it, has helped to spur the professionals into action. I hope so anyway.
This baseline testing is excellent news.


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