MONDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Many more children are
showing up at emergency departments with traumatic brain injuries
-- such as concussions -- from sports activities, a new study
Doctors at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
found that the number of emergency department visits for these
injuries increased 92 percent between 2002 and 2011.
Meanwhile, although the number of children admitted to the
hospital rose in proportion to emergency department visits, the
hospitalization rate held at a steady 10 percent.
One bright spot in the study was that the severity of injuries
decreased. And the rise in emergency department visits is probably
due in part to better awareness, experts said.
"We are doing a better job at educating ourselves and educating
the public about concussion," said Dr. Holly Hanson, lead study
author and an emergency medicine fellow. "People and doctors are
recognizing sports-related concussions more. People are recognizing
the signs and symptoms. People are more aware of the complications.
So people are coming in more."
Children today are bigger and faster, Hanson said, and the
increased weight and velocity may also be causing more of these
injuries. "That's my best guess," she said.
The activities that had the highest admission rates per patients
seen in the ER for traumatic brain injury were skiing, sledding,
inline skating and skateboarding, the investigators found. "These
activities don't have a lot of regulation or trainers around. So
being smart about helmets is important," Hanson said.
For the study, Hanson's team collected data on nearly 3,900
children seen in the emergency department for a sports-related
traumatic brain injury. Of these, 372 were admitted to the
Although more children were seen over time, the severity of
their injuries was reduced, which was most likely due to more
parents being cautious and concerned, and bringing their children
to the hospital to be examined, Hanson said.
Parents shouldn't take head injuries lightly, she added. "It
could cause both short-term and long-term consequences if ignored,"
Hanson said. "Seeking care is most important."
The report was published online Sept. 30 and in the October
print issue of
Another expert thinks more awareness of concussions is
increasing the numbers of children being seen in hospitals for
Dr. Ann Hyslop, a pediatric neurologist at Miami Children's
Hospital, said that "more children are going to the emergency room
for traumatic brain injuries across the country and that speaks to
increased traumatic brain injury awareness and the need for
concussion identification early."
Hyslop said she too has seen an increase in the number of
children being seen in emergency rooms and in clinics, including
those referred by pediatricians for concussion.
Many children will get better within a short time, but for
others more care is needed, she said.
"About 95 percent of children are going to get better within a
couple of weeks," Hyslop said. "But during that time they can have
problems with concentration, sleep, headaches, behavioral and mood
For children whose condition doesn't improve, other treatments
-- such as physical therapy, speech therapy, help in concentrating
and long-term sleep and headache management -- may be needed,
Hyslop noted. "That's about 5 to 10 percent of children," she
Hyslop also pointed out that more children are wearing helmets
and more parents are following car seat recommendations. "But we
have a lot of room to improve," she added.
Traumatic brain injuries are responsible for some 630,000
emergency room visits, more than 67,000 hospitalizations, and 6,100
deaths in children and teens each year, according to previous
research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Across the United States, the number of children seen for
sports-related traumatic brain injuries increased 62 percent
between 2001 and 2009, other studies have found.
For more about concussions, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.