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Many Children Suffer From Untreated Sports-Related Concussions: Study

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Heads up! About 1.9 million children in the United States get concussions yearly from sports or recreational activities. The majority of these concussion cases go untreated, a new study found.

Using three nationwide databases, the research team estimated that between 1.1 million and 1.9 million children up to 18 years old suffer from sports- or recreational activity-related concussion across the United States annually.

Among these kids, between 511,000 and 1.2 million failed to visit health care experts following their concussion incidents. The researchers estimated that between 23 and 53 percent of sports-related concussions in high schools were not properly reported to doctors or health care providers.

On the other hand, those who did receive medical care following their injuries, approximately 378,000 children were treated in outpatient clinics. Between 115,000 and 167,000 children received treatments in emergency departments.

"There is a lot of uncertainty in how many concussions from sports and recreation occur each year because many concussions are not reported," said lead author Dr. Mersine Bryan from the University of Washington and the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute.

Since not every concussion injury is reported and not every child patient is checked out by a health care expert, getting the total exact count of concussions is difficult, the researchers noted. It was also unclear how many of the children who suffer from the symptoms actually had concussions.

Regardless of the limitations, the study findings complemented other studies that looked into the frequency of concussions in children.

The research team used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), MarketScan and High School RIO. The recent study was published in the Pediatrics journal on June 20.

Anthony Kontos, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's sports medicine concussion program research director, said that many parents don't understand that there are several therapies and interventions that can be done after a concussion incident among children.

Kontos, who wasn't part of the study, highlighted the misconception among parents that rest is the only thing that can be done when a child suffers a concussion.

The mere fact that children are not being checked out by concussion-trained health care experts following the incident means there is a problem. Moreover, there is a need to better educate kids, coaches and parents in terms of "appropriate and timely clinical care," added Kontos.

"We cannot stress enough that a concussion is a euphemism for a brain injury," said Dr. Brent Masel, Brain Injury Association of America's national medical director.

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