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According to a new study, the number of children arriving in the ER seeking medical attention for a sports concussion more than doubled between 2001 and 2005. Findings released in the journal Pediatrics have traced not only the growing numbers of concussions in middle-schoolers and elementary school age children, but new evidence relating to the effects of concussion on younger children.
A report by the Los Angeles Times says that the rise in sports injuries to younger children may be due in part to an increase in participation in "elite travel teams and in competitive youth leagues" across the country. Nearly half of the sports concussion pediatric patients seen in ERs were between the ages of 8-13, the study found.
Researchers found that despite the general decline in participation in organized sports during 2001-2005, still nearly half the visits by children and teenagers to the ER were due to sports-related concussions. Additionally, according to UCLA pediatric neurologist Christopher Giza, who wasn't involved in the study, the number of actual concussion cases is thought to be much higher, because the study did not include those children with concussions who were brought to their regular physician by parents, or who did not receive any treatment at all.
The Times reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a new clinical report discussing what is currently known about concussion care in children and teens. This report points up the increasing evidence that not only are the brains of younger children more susceptible to injury, but those injuries may take longer to heal and can be more damaging than concussions in older adolescents or adults.
The study encourages parents, doctors and coaches to set better guidelines for recognizing brain trauma in younger children and to get away from the past practice of allowing kids to "tough it out." In 2009, Washington state passed the Zackery Lystedt Law, which requires a youth showing any signs of a concussion get the approval of a medical professional before being allowed to play again. Several other states, including Oregon, New Mexico and Virginia have followed suit.