Numbers on youth concussions may be much higher than thought

June 2, 2016 Providence Health Team

The number of children and teens who suffer concussions may be dramatically higher than current estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a new study.

The CDC currently bases its concussion estimates on ER visits and high school and college sports data. But the study, done by the CDC and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, found that of the children who were seen at the hospital for a concussion:

  • 82 percent initially saw their primary care physician or pediatrician and were diagnosed by that provider.
  • 12 percent were diagnosed in the ER.
  • 5 percent were diagnosed by a specialist.
  • 1 percent were admitted to a hospital.

And while there’s been a lot of concern about concussions and high school athletes who play contact sports such as football, one-third of the injured kids were under 12.

With better data, hope for better prevention

The study was conducted between 2010 and 2014, and included 8,083 kids 17 and younger who visited a clinic or hospital within the Philadelphia hospital’s network. The researchers said more studies are needed to confirm their findings. You can read more about the study here.

With more accurate estimates of the number of concussions and a better understanding of their causes, researchers at the CDC's Injury Center believe health care providers can do a better job helping kids prevent concussions, and treating them if they are injured.

Kids more vulnerable to symptoms

Most people who suffer a concussion make a quick and full recovery, according to the CDC. Some symptoms may last longer in children and teens, however.

Common concussion symptoms fall into four categories:

  1. Thinking/remembering: Difficulty remembering, especially new information, and concentrating
  2. Physical: Nausea or vomiting early on, sensitivity to light or noise, headaches. Also, blurred vision, dizziness or problems with balance.
  3. Emotional/mood: Feeling irritable, sad, anxious or nervous
  4. Sleeping: Sleeping too much or difficulty falling asleep

Healing from a concussion

If your child has a concussion, his or her health care provider likely will prescribe rest. Talk to your provider before your child returns to physical activities and make sure the return is gradual. If symptoms reappear, your child is pushing too hard and needs to stop again and rest.

More advice for recovering from a concussion, no matter your age:

  • Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day.
  • Avoid physically demanding activities such as sports, working out and housecleaning.
  • Ask your health care provider when it‘s OK to drive, ride a bike and operate heavy equipment.
  • Don’t drink alcohol and ask your doctor whether you should continue taking any currently prescribed medicine.

If your child is involved in contact sports or any other physical activity that might result in a concussion, watch for symptoms. If you see any, talk with your health care provider right away. You can find a Providence provider find a Providence provider here.

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