ER Facilities See More Treatment of Kids Concussions

Over the past 12 months, concussion awareness has heightened primarily because of the health-related after-effects experienced by what now seems to be a never-ending amount of complaints filed on behalf of former professional sports athletes. This awareness is now going through a trickle-down phase, exposing similar issues in college, high school, and youth sports in general.

But a concussion doesn’t have to result from a sports injury. Children, everyday, have accidents that lead toward concussions where no sport is involved.

Current emergency room data from a study, whose lead author, Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, is a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, indicates a significant increase in the diagnoses of child concussions. At the same time though, the number of kids being hospitalized following concussion diagnoses declined during this same ten year study.

In effect, the increase in ER visits appears to be a result of ‘the word on the street’—more people have now become informed of the lurking dangers of concussions.

Another recent study shows an increase in “child” athletes receiving hospital treatment for head injuries. Again, this is thought to be a result of awareness, not an actual increase in concussions.

According to Colvin, a decade ago, concussions were treated as a “ding.” There was nothing to worry about. However, that mindset has changed in the face of ongoing concussion research amid concerns over what repeat concussions might cause later on in life.

A study analyzing medical records from 2001-2010, taken from more than a dozen children’s hospitals nationwide, revealed that ER doctors reported 2,126 concussions in children 18 and younger in 2001. That statistic rose to 4,967 in 2010.

At the outset of this study, approximately 25 percent of the kids were hospitalized for treatment of concussions. That number dropped to about 9 percent in 2010.

In a brief report prepared by Colvin to be presented at a Pediatrics Academic Societies meeting in Boston, it appears that 170,000 U.S. kids are admitted to ERs annually for treatment of head injuries. The major causes for kids’ concussions are sports, falls, and traffic accidents.

Confirming Colvin’s interpretation of the data from his study is Dr. Rebecca Carl. As a sports medicine specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, she states that her hospital has also seen increases in ER visits. This is due in some respects to Illinois legislation requiring that athletes who are removed from play be evaluated by a doctor.

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