This information is dense, but is a great source of knowledge about the prevalence of concussion in our world. The best form of protection against concussions is to be well-informed and to know how to properly treat them.
Most cases of traumatic brain injury are concussions. A World Health Organization (WHO) study estimated that between 70 and 90% of head injuries that receive treatment are mild. However, due to underreporting and to the widely varying definitions of concussion and MTBI, it is difficult to estimate how common the condition is. Estimates of the incidence of concussion may be artificially low, for example due to underreporting. As many as 89% of MTBI sufferers fail to get assessed by a medical professional. The WHO group reviewed studies on the epidemiology of MTBI and found a hospital treatment rate of 1–3 per 1000 people, but since not all concussions are treated in hospitals, they estimated that the rate per year in the general population is over 6 per 1000 people. Approximately 3.8 million sports and recreation-related TBIs occur in the United States each year, but that number includes only athletes who lost consciousness. Since loss of consciousness is thought to occur in less than 10% of concussions, the CDC estimate is likely 10 times lower than the real number. This number does not include car and bicycle crashes, falls, assaults, war zone concussions, work-related concussions, or other mechanisms of injury! Sports in which concussion is particularly common include football and boxing (a boxer aims to “knock out,” i.e. give a mild traumatic brain injury to the opponent). The injury is so common in the latter that several medical groups have called for a ban on the sport, including the American Academy of Neurology, the World Medical Association, and the medical associations of the UK, the U.S., Australia, and Canada. Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season.
Young children have the highest concussion rate among all age groups. However, most people who suffer concussion are young adults. A Canadian study found that the yearly incidence of MTBI is lower in older age groups. Studies suggest males suffer MTBI at about twice the rate of their female counterparts. However, female athletes may be at a higher risk for suffering concussion than their male counterparts, from genetic and biomechanical standpoints. Among people who are 15 to 24 years old, sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury.
Because their heads are disproportionately large compared to the rest of their body, concussions often occur in young children. As kids enter adolescence, they experience rapid height and weight gain. Both are factors that make them more prone to accidents than adults. According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, 1 million children each year suffer concussions. More than 30,000 incur long-term disabilities as a result of the traumatic brain injury.
The most common serious head injuries in young children are caused by falls and abuse (inflicted head injuries). Serious head injuries may involve injuries to the brain. The more force that is involved in a head injury, the more likely it is that a serious injury to the brain has occurred. If there has been a high-energy injury to the head, there is a greater likelihood that a serious injury has occurred. When a high-energy injury occurs, it is even more important to assess the child for signs of a serious head injury.
Shaken baby syndrome is thought to occur when a baby is violently shaken, thrown, or slammed, causing the baby’s head to move forward and backward rapidly. This movement causes the brain to hit the sides of the skull forcefully, leading to bleeding in the eyes and injury and bleeding in the brain. Brain injury and bleeding can cause increased pressure in the brain. Increased pressure in the brain can lead to serious, permanent brain damage. Babies who have trouble breathing or who stop breathing during an episode of being shaken, thrown, or slammed may have more brain damage.
The economic costs of MTBI are estimated at more than $12 billion per year. These high costs are due in part to the large percentage of hospital admissions for head injury that are due to mild head trauma, but indirect costs such as lost work time and early retirement account for the bulk of the costs. These direct and indirect costs cause the expense of mild brain trauma to rival that of moderate and severe head injuries.
Sport-related concussion is now widely recognized as a major public health concern in the United States and worldwide. Despite rule changes and advances in protective equipment, the incidence rate of concussion in contact and collision sports continues to be relatively high. Overall, concussion is one of the most common injuries in many collegiate sports. Of all sports, football has the highest absolute number of concussions each year because of the large volume of participants at the high school and collegiate levels. Recent epidemiological and prospective clinical studies estimate that approximately 3% to 8% of high school and collegiate football players sustain a concussion each season. More concerning is the trend toward an increasing rate of concussion in collegiate football over the last 7 years.
About 39,000 school-age children were treated for sports-related concussions at hospital emergency departments in 2008—approximately 90 percent of all emergency visits for that condition, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Children ages 14 to 18 (high-school age) represented 58 percent of the emergency visits treated for a sports-related concussion, 17 percent were between the age of 11 and 13 (middle-school age), 7 percent were 6 to 10 years old (elementary-school age), and 8 percent were 19 to 23 years old (college age).
A Federal agency also found that among patients treated for sports-related concussions in 2008:
● About 12 percent experienced a moderate or prolonged loss of consciousness, while 21 percent had a brief loss of consciousness. More than half of all patients (52 percent) did not lose consciousness.
● Males accounted for more than three-quarters of patients (78 percent) treated in the emergency department for sports-related concussions.
● People treated for concussions typically also received care for other injuries, including less severe injuries such as pulled muscles and sprains, and more severe injuries such as skull fractures.
● The vast majority of patients (95 percent) did not have to be admitted into the hospital.
Staying vigilant in knowing the signs and symptoms of concussions can keep you and your family from becoming just a statistic.