Youth Concussions Underestimated

By Jennifer Ball

A new study recently found that the number of youth concussions is vastly underestimated. The researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania studied this by looking at the point of entry into the healthcare system for youth with concussions. They looked at more than 8,000 concussion diagnoses in children aged 0 to 17 through electronic health records.

“We looked retrospectively at four recent years of data on children diagnosed with concussion at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to determine how children access the health system for a concussion,” said Dr. Kristy B. Arbogast in our interview with her. Dr. Arbogast is the lead author of the study and Co-Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP.

Their findings showed that 82 percent of concussion diagnoses came from primary care doctors. Five percent came from specialty care centers like trauma centers or sports medicine centers. Just twelve percent came from emergency room visits, even though this is where most estimates of concussion numbers come from. One-third of concussions were to children under the age of 12.

“These numbers are important as many current counts of concussion injury among children are based on emergency room visits or organized high school and college athletics data,” Dr. Arbogast said. “Thus, we are vastly underestimating child and youth concussions in the US.”

These findings also highlight the importance of the primary care setting in caring for concussions.

“This study provides direction for health system networks and clinicians about where targeted training and resources need to be deployed,” Dr. Arbogast said. “Ensuring that primary care pediatricians and family practice clinicians have contemporary training in pediatric-specific concussion management best practices is critical.”

The study also showed the potential for electronic health records in advancing research in this area. The hope is to develop better estimates of concussions in this country.

“This study will also inform future concussion surveillance systems on how to more accurately track the number of youth concussions in the U.S.,” Dr. Arbogast said. “Better estimates of the number, causes, and outcomes of concussion will allow us to more effectively prevent and treat concussions sustained by children.”


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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