Concussion rates are rising sharply among U.S. kids and teens, researchers report. The study, which looked at health insurance claims for almost 9 million Americans, found that concussion diagnoses more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. The big question is whether the increase reflects a true rise in the number of injuries or an increase in diagnoses — or both.
The most significant jump was seen among 10- to 14-year-olds, whose injury rate more than tripled, the study found. They were followed closely by 15- to 19-year-olds. While the rate rose 160 percent across all age groups, it spiked by 243 percent among 10- to 14-year-olds, and by 187 percent among older teenagers. The causes of those concussions are unknown, according to lead researcher Dr. Alan Zhang, of the University of California, San Francisco. But, he said, head injuries from sports and other physical activities — such as bike riding and skateboarding — are likely the main drivers. Past studies have pointed to similar spikes in concussions among children and teens. But, Zhang said, they’ve focused on specific groups, like high school athletes. “Our study looked at a broad cross-section of the population,” he noted.
Still, both Zhang and Podell cautioned parents against getting overly alarmed. That’s partly because most kids recover from a concussion with no problems — and partly because physical activity is healthy. “Sports and exercise are definitely beneficial for kids. We want them to be active,” Zhang said. But, he added, parents should take precautions, such as making sure their kids wear helmets when they’re biking, skating or skateboarding, for example. Organized sports have their role, too, Zhang said. That means ensuring kids have the right protective equipment and enforcing rules that lower the odds of a dangerous blow to the head.