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Sixty-percent increase in TBIs among US youth athletes

By Dale Kiefer - 08 Oct 2011 10:49:0 GMT
Sixty-percent increase in TBIs among US youth athletes

Brain CT scan via Shutterstock

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that treatments for traumatic brain injury (TBI) among young athletes have increased by 60 percent in the last decade.

But that's not necessarily as alarming as it sounds. While TBIs are potentially dangerous, and have been linked to an increased risk of future problems ranging from physical deficits to cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral changes, the increased rate of treatment reflects better diagnosis and more proactive treatment, say researchers.

The higher rates may reflect the effectiveness of an awareness campaign, the Heads Up Initiative, launched about a decade ago to promote awareness about TBI among coaches, parents, clinicians and educators.

"We believe that one reason for the increase in emergency department visits among children and adolescents may be a result of the growing awareness among parents and coaches, and the public as a whole, about the need for individuals with a suspected TBI to be seen by a health care professional," said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The present study noted that bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer were the primary sports involved in brain injuries.

Nearly three-fourths of patients treated for TBI in the eight years of the study were male; 70.5 percent of emergency room visits for TBI involved patients aged 10 to 19. Although some evidence has suggested that young brains are more resilient to injury than adult brains, research shows that TBI is actually more dangerous in the young. Recovery times may be longer, and long-term effects more serious.

"While some research shows a child's developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI," said Richard C. Hunt, M.D., director of CDC's Division for Injury Response.

While TBI symptoms may seem mild, the injury can result in life-long impairment, including loss of memory, changes in behavior, learning ability and emotions. Experts caution that it is always better to be safe than sorry. Children should be examined by a health care professional whenever a head injury is believed to have occurred.

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