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With the number of participants in youth and high school sports increasing, sports-related injuries in children and teenagers have steadily been on the rise in the past decade. What is even more alarming is the rise in sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in this same population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.7 million TBIs occur each year, contributing to more than 30% of all injury-related deaths in the United States.
New research, published in Pediatrics, suggest that the number of children visiting the emergency room (ER) for sports-related TBIs has skyrocketed in the past decade, causing concern due to the permanent and long-lasting effects of such injuries.
The study followed 3,800 children and teenagers who presented to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with sports-related TBIs between 2002 and 2011. Of the study population, 73% were male and 78% were Caucasian; the mean age was 13 years old. The leading causes for these sports-related TBIs included football, skateboarding, rollerblading, skiing, and sledding.
The data indicated that the number of TBI-related ER visits jumped 92% during that period. In addition, researchers found that the number of children and teenagers admitted to the hospital after presenting to the ER with these injuries increased in proportion to the visits, with an overall sports-related TBI admission rate of 85% in this study group.
On the bright side, the study found that while visits and admissions increased among the study population, the severity of the injuries decreased from 7.8 to 4.8 using established medical measurements for trauma.
With less research in this population, compared to adults with the same injuries, hospitals and ERs will need to establish identification and management guidelines for this patient population.