Teen concussions up 200 percent: Are coaches, parents aware and treating them properly?

A new study has found that from 1997 to 2007, emergency department visits for concussion in kids aged 8 to 13 playing organized sports doubled, and the number of visits increased by more than 200 percent in older teens.

From HealthDay:

“From 2001 to 2005, there were an estimated 502,000 emergency department visits for concussion among U.S. kids aged 8 to 19 — about half of which were sports-related — and 8- to 13-year-olds accounted for about one-third of the visits, according to Dr. Lisa Bakhos and colleagues at Brown University, Injury Prevention Center and Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, who analyzed information from two national databases for the study.”

Oddly from 1997 to 2007 team sport participation declined, yet emergency room visits for concussions increased.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for coaches, parents and doctors about how to treat concussions. (And guess what? You shouldn’t tell a kid to just shake it off!) Recommendations published in the September issue of Pediatrics include:

  • Athletes should NOT play again on the same day.
  • They should be evaluated by a doctor before the play again even on another day.
  • There is no medicine to treat a concussion, so kids need to just rest the body and the brain. Homework, TV and video games can actually worsen symptoms.
  • Kids may need a leave of absence from school as it generally takes seven to 10 days for symptoms to resolve. (Boy let’s hope the kids don’t get wind of that one!)
  • Also kids should consider “retirement” from a sport if they have suffered multiple concussions or if concussion symptoms have returned after three months.
  • Signs parents should worry about: a progressively increasing headache, if a child can’t move their arm or leg, worsening symptoms or repeated throwing up, lightheadedness, confusion or losing consciousness.

So which sports are the worst for concussions:

Football, basketball, soccer and ice hockey for team sports.

Bicycling, playground games and snow skiing  for leisure sports.

Why do you think concussions have increased? (My husband thinks it’s purely about coaches and parents actually treating the concussions now so they are being reported.) Do you think coaches and parents take it seriously enough?

Has your child or teen ever suffered a concussion? From what sport? How did the coach treat it? Did you see a doctor? What do you think of the new guidelines?

14 comments Add your comment


August 30th, 2010
2:14 pm

I think coaches and parents are taking head injuries more seriously at the high school and younger level, because college and pro coaches are publicizing concussion issues and the potential for long-term problems they can cause.

I also think more kids are getting concussions because kids are getting bigger, younger.

My youngest received a concussion injury playing high school football three years ago,
and his coach did not treat it as a potentially serious issue. He was told to sit a couple of minutes, then return to the field. He ended up leaving the team after having a bad headache for over a week. Breaking his arm during a scrimmage the previous year may have had something to do with his lack of desire to continue playing.

A lot of teams can no longer afford to have trainers available, which would be the first line of treatment, and that concerns me too.

Youngest is now playing rugby in college, and I think likelihood of another injury is pretty high in that sport, especially since they don’t wear helmets.


August 30th, 2010
2:18 pm

I agree with Michael on this one. I think more people are actually taken to the ER now instead of either being told to shake it off or just sent home or benched. That’s a good thing! I guess once in awhile we can thank our overly-litigious society for something. There are still some hard-core coaches out there, but most know far better than to risk getting sued and getting the school sued for not recognizing a fall or bump that could cause a concussion. I have to say -I’ve called the doctor twice and almost gone in once with small children who have fallen off a bed and in the shower respectively. If one of my kids smacked his head really hard while roller blading or fell off the monkey bars and hit his head (or smacked heads in soccer, etc.), then I would probably head to the ER if everything didn’t seem perfect pretty soon. If the kid is too young to really tell you if the vision is blurry, head is hurting more than it did, etc. then go ahead and go -better to be safe than sorry. I think more proactive parents, providers and coaches are getting kids to the ER instead of thinking it will all be ok.


August 30th, 2010
2:35 pm

My husband played, and was injured in, almost every sport imaginable growing up in the 1980s and 90s, including high school football. Boy, could he tell you some stories. Coaches generally took a “walk it off” approach to injuries, even ones that were obviously serious. Although some coaches may take injuries (particularly head injuries) a little more seriously, not much has changed. My husband laughs about it now, but I don’t think its a coincidence that he’s discouraged our kids from playing team sports!


August 30th, 2010
2:38 pm

With all of my kids in sports, I’m typically the mom telling them to shake it off. However, for head injuries, we do take them seriously. I agree with Michael that they are just treating them now. The amount and type of protective equipment used today probably decreased the number of injuries.

[...] among both young children and …Clear kids with concussions before sports: reportReuters UKTeen concussions up 200 percent: Are coaches, parents aware and treating them …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Concussion rate rises among young athletesChicago Tribune [...]

OK, I played football from age 8 -18...

August 30th, 2010
3:52 pm

…then for 4 more years in college (age 18 – 22) at the D1 (highest collegiate level), then coached for 2 years in college at the D1 level – at no time did I ever observe or hear a coach tell a player who complained of a head injury to “shake it off” and get back out there – and this was in four diffent states in which I lived or went to school.

Head injuries have always been a topic of concern, yet we have been made more aware of their prevalence in the past few years since the pros and colleges started doing studies to find out more of what really goes on when someone “gets their bell rung”.

Several years ago my oldest son played basketball at UGA – there he suffered a severe concussion when elbowed – the trainers kept him out of practice and games for a week, even though after about 4 days he was probably well enough to have returned to the playing court.

It really irritates me when you hear the “I could tell you some stories” – I have seen coaches whom you thought might have this mentality to “stick a band-aid on it and get back out there”, and maybe some of you have experienced this with other injuries, but head injuries have not been that anyone has tried to fool with, at least in my experience…

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 30th, 2010
6:13 pm

I played a lot of football as a kid, and was one of the smaller guys on the team…I think I suffered several concussions, and I’ve seen no ill effects fotm tei wec’i resdv skeil leiw pyed wnu7ue se83…….

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

August 30th, 2010
6:16 pm

Enter your comments here


August 31st, 2010
7:13 am

I played football through my first year of college and got my bell rung quite a few times but I doubt they were concussions for a variety of reason which I won’t bore you with here. I think the other posters are right; kids are bigger stronger faster at a younger age, and people are more aware now. Safety equipment has gotten better, yet the numbers continue to go up. We’ll never know how much of the increase is due to education and how much is due to something else, so I guess I’ll just go to work and make some money. LOL


August 31st, 2010
8:10 am

…not a lot of concerned moms re: this subject – NEXT topic, please!?!?!?

TnT's Mom

August 31st, 2010
9:16 am

my youngest has had 2 concussions. First was in 3rd grade in a roller blade crash with no helmet,that one had a few stitches as well. He went to school the next day and recovered well. The second was a helmet to helmet hit in football in 5th grade. He was benched and out of practices for about 3 days.

I worry, but wont stop him or his older brother from participating. We have experienced good coaches who take head injurys seriously.

I do agree that some of the increase is due to increased reporting of the injury.


August 31st, 2010
10:58 am

I think a lot of it is more publicity and awareness. t I have a feeling that a lot of kids with minor concussions (who typically wouldn’t have gone to the ER 20 years ago), are encouraged to go now so that they can be cleared to continue to play. Not saying it’s wrong, I just think that coaches are aware that they too can be sued if something happens to the kid.

GHSA just upped their training for coaches and referees regarding concussions and refs are now allowed to tell a coach a kid isn’t allowed to play if the ref thinks he shows signs of a concussion. My husband is a ref and doesn’t really agree with the new rule (b/c as he says, he’s not a doctor) but I guess it’s just a line of accountability so that if you do have an over-zealous coach, the ref can make the call.


September 1st, 2010
11:19 am

TechMom, you are correct that GHSA has really been aggressive this year on the issue of concussions but it is also on a national level also. You are incorrect on one statement and that is the officials “are now allowed to tell a coach a kid isn’t allowed to play”.The officials must inform the coach of the symptoms that the player is showing signs as he is escorted off of the field and the coach makes the decision for him to play or not. IT IS THE COACHES RESPONSIBILITY to have the player evaluated by a medical professional as the officials are not medical experts (I agree with your husband). If the coach chooses to send the player back in to play without the evaluation then fault will lie with the coach if a problem persist. The officials will watch the player and if symptoms remian evident then the player will be removed each time he is sent back onto the field with them. I don’t know of any coach that will be willing to advise a player to shake it off and get back in there as they don’t want to win at the expense of the health of a player. I am glad that the awareness of concussions is becoming well published as it has been some what of a problem.

Cheryl Gowin

September 1st, 2010
5:32 pm

Concordia College in Morehead Minnesota gives a cognitive test to all football players to use as a baseline. I think this is a good idea for all schools at all levels.