A new study published in The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that the number of concussions in the general population is growing, more specifically in the adolescent age group. The researchers at UC San Francisco recommended that this age group be prioritized in concussion education, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
“Our study evaluated a large cross-section of the U.S. population,” said lead author Alan Zhang, MD, UCSF Health orthopaedic surgeon. “We were surprised to see that the increase in concussion cases over the past few years mainly were from adolescent patients aged 10 to 19.”
The rise in mild traumatic brain injury in the adolescent population is concerning, and clinical efforts to prevent concussions are necessary.
The purpose of the study was to “evaluate the current incidence and trends in concussions diagnosed across varying age groups and health care settings in a large cross-sectional population.”
The researchers queried administrative health records of 8,828,248 members of a large private-payer insurance group in the United States. From years 2007 through 2014, 43,884 patients were diagnosed with concussions. The people with concussions were grouped by year of diagnosis, age group, sex, classification of concussion, and health care setting of diagnosis (emergency room vs. physician’s office).
Of the patients with concussions, 55 percent were male and 32 percent were in the adolescent age group, 10 to 19 years old. The highest incidence of concussion occurred in the 15 to 19 age group. The next highest incidence was in the 10 to 14 age group, followed by 20 to 24 years, and 5 to 9 years.
Overall, there was a 60 percent increase in concussions from 2007 to 2014. Dr. Zhang said that one possible explanation of the increase in incidence of concussions could be increased participation in sports. It also could be explained by an increased awareness for the injury by patients, parents, coaches, sports medical staff and treating physicians.
The greatest increases were from the 10- to 14-year and the 15- to 19-year age groups. 29 percent of concussions were associated with some loss of consciousness. 56 percent of concussions were diagnosed in the emergency department, 29 percent in a physician’s office, and the remainder in urgent care clinics or inpatient settings.
While many have studied traumatic brain injuries diagnosed in emergency room settings, this study uniquely looks at concussion diagnoses across the United States population in various age groups.