CDC: traumatic brain injuries up 60 percent among youth athletes

July 19th, 2013 - by DKRPA

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of youth athletes sustaining traumatic brain injuries is frighteningly on the rise. Based on the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the number of kids under 19 suffering brain trauma from collisions during recreational sports rose by a shocking 60 percent between 2001 and 2009.

The news isn’t all bad. Deaths among those aged 15 to 19 caused by brain trauma dropped by half over roughly the same period (1999 to 2010). At the same time, however, the surge in teen sports injuries requiring emergency treatment is alarming enough that two government agencies, the CDC and the Institute of Medicine are teaming up with the NFL, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Sports Legacy Institute and other groups in an effort to make substantial changes in youth sports safety.

In 1980, a similar, thoughtful focus on reducing traumatic brain injury deaths from car accidents succeeded in reducing those fatalities by 40 percent. The CDC wants to do the same or better in youth sports. So far, the collaboration with sports groups has been focusing on getting information to coaches and players about how to prevent, recognize and treat on-field brain trauma.

“We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the concussion issue,” said the nonprofit Sports Legacy Institute’s executive director, a former Harvard football player and professional wrestler. “It was ignored for so long that we have a lot to catch up on.”

To begin catching up, in January the Institute of Medicine, which is a policy advisory panel for Congress, began an investigation into how great the risk of traumatic brain injuries and concussions actually is for youth athletes ranging from kindergarteners to young adults.

At the same time, at least 3,000 former NFL players who sustained head injuries and their families have filed lawsuits against the league. They claim that the NFL concealed data about the long-term impact of repeated concussions. Each concussion, doctors say, has the potential to damage the brain. Over time, the effect of repeated concussions can be cumulative.

If your child is involved in contact sports such as football, lacrosse or hockey, the first thing you should do is talk to the coach and make sure that concussions and head injuries are taken seriously and that injured players will be provided with immediate, qualified medical attention.

Source: Bloomberg, “Brain Trauma Surge Among Youth Athletes Raises CDC Alarm,” Samuel Adams, July 11, 2013