Sport-related concussions are evolving as a major public health concern. Ongoing research suggests these injuries have a much more serious and prolonged impact on overall health than previously believed. According the Centers for Disease Control, a concussion can be defined as “a type of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head” (CDC, 2013).
Crushing and violent hits are seen as part of the game in many sports, and are often glorified by the media in the professional realm. However, many overlook the fact that the vast majority of individuals who play contact sports in this country are under the age of 19 (Buzzini & Guskiewicz, 2006). Research has shown age-related considerations should influence clinical aspects of concussion diagnosis, management, and treatment (Meehan et al, 2011). This paper will focus on the epidemiology of concussions in American high-school athletes.
Every year approximately 1.7 million TBIs are reported, and an estimated 75% of these injuries come from concussions and other forms of mild TBI (CDC, 2013). There is currently limited data present on the incidence of this emerging public health concern, primarily because these figures “vastly underestimate total TBI burden, because many individuals suffering from mild or moderate TBI do not seek medical advice” (Daneshvar et al, 2011). Over the past decade participation in organized sports by children, adolescents, and adults have greatly increased. It is estimated that nearly 44 million children and adolescents participate in athletics. This increase in overall participation is “associated with an increased risk of traumatic brain injury” (Daneshvar et al, 2011).
Data collected by the Electronic Injury Surveillance System – All Injury program indicated that 173,285 individuals under the age of 19 were treated in hospital ED’s annually for sports-related head injuries (CDC, 2011). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has reported an average annual increase of concussions diagnoses of 7.0% from 1988 through the 2004 seasons. These statistics were calculated through the NCAA’s Injury Surveillance System (ISS) (Daneshvar et al, 2011). In their 2012 – 2013 report, the High School Reporting Information Online injury surveillance system calculated concussions comprise 27% of all injuries sustained by the high-school athlete during competition (Comstock et al, 2013). This is a 2% increase from the 2010 – 2011 report (Comstock et al, 2011), and a dramatic 15% increase from the 2007 – 2008 school year (Comstock et al, 2008).
Special attention must be given to diagnosis and management of concussions in high-school athletes. High-school athletes are more vulnerable to obtaining a concussion when compared to older athletes due to a variety of biological factors, including: decreased myelination, greater head-to-body ratio, thinner cranial bones, and weaker neck muscles (Buzzini & Guskiewicz, 2006, p. 377). A...