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Study finds surge in sports-related TBI treatment for children


Researchers at one hospital report a skyrocketing increase in the number of visits to the ED for children with sports-related traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions.

The study, conducted by emergency physicians at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, shows that emergency visits for sports-related TBI increased 92% between 2002 and 2011. The proportion of children and teens admitted to the hospital with the same diagnosis was about 10% of those who made emergency visits and did not change significantly during the study period.

Patients admitted during the later years of the time period had less severe injuries and stayed in the hospital shorter amounts of time.

“More people are seeking care for TBI in the emergency department, and proportionately more are being admitted for observation,” Holly Hanson, MD, the study’s lead author and an emergency medicine fellow at Cincinnati Children’s, said in a news release.

For a study published Sept. 30 on the website of the journal Pediatrics, researchers studied more than 3,800 children and teens who came to Cincinnati Children’s with a sports-related TBI between 2002 and 2011. Of these patients, 372 were admitted.

Injury severity decreased from 7.8 to 4.8 based on an established medical score to measure trauma severity. Length of stay changed little but trended downward. Skiing, sledding, inline skating and skateboarding had the highest admission rates for patients who visited the ED.

The research did not concentrate on why more children and teens with less severe injuries were admitted to the hospital during this time period. They speculate that emergency physicians may be ordering fewer CT scans and observing patients in the hospital, or perhaps that athletes are getting bigger and stronger, causing more head injuries needing longer periods of observation.

The CDC has called TBI an “invisible epidemic” because these injuries often are profound but not readily apparent. TBI is responsible for approximately 630,000 emergency visits, more than 67,000 hospitalizations and 6,100 deaths in children and teens each year, according to the news release. Medical evaluations for sports-related TBI increased 62% between 2001 and 2009, according to previous studies.

Study abstract:


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