Many Sports-Related Concussions May Go Untreated in Children, Study Finds

A new study puts the spotlight on sports- and recreation-related concussions.

— -- Nearly 2 million children may be suffering sports- and recreation-related concussions (SRRCs) every year, and many of those may go untreated, according to a new study published today.

The researchers came to these findings, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, after analyzing three national databases that contained injury information reported to various healthcare settings, including emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient medical providers, and certified high school athletic trainers.

Alarmingly, researchers estimated that between 511,590 and 1,240,972 SRRCs went untreated in children under 18 each year.

The study comes as concerns over concussions and their long-term effects on the brain have increasingly gained attention, especially as related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Dr. Steven Flanagan, chair of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and an expert in traumatic brain injuries including concussions, said more attention needs to be paid to concussive injuries and identifying teens or other children with these injuries early.

However, Flanagan stresses that “the most important aspect with regards to concussion is recognizing it.”

So what signs should parents be aware of? It’s important to remember that a concussion is not always accompanied by a loss of consciousness. Symptoms that may occur at the time of injury include feeling dazed or confused, blurred vision, or amnesia for the time of the injury. Additional symptoms later on may include difficulty paying attention, becoming more irritable, or sleepiness. Most people with a concussion will get better within days to a couple weeks.

“Many folks get worried about concussions, and rightfully so, but the vast majority really do well over a short period of time,” said Flanagan. However, he notes that parents know their children best, and advises that “when in doubt, seek out professional help.”

According to Flanagan, the most generally accepted treatment early on is physical and cognitive rest, which includes limiting time spent watching TV or reading.

While high school athletes have easy access to people trained in recognizing concussive symptoms, many children may be injured during free play or during recreational sports.

Per Diamond, “What we have to do is address this population group and provide better ways for parents or other people involved in recreational sports or play to understand what the potential signs and symptoms are, how to better recognize and respond to them.”

Dr. Maryam Jahdi is a psychiatric resident at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She is a resident in the ABC News Medical Unit.

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