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CDC: Sports, Rec TBI Send Over 280K Children to ER Each Year

By: Allan M. Siegel

Today, there’s little secret about the risks of head injuries in contact sports and other forms of recreational activity. Major cases and studies, including the landmark $1 billion NFL concussion settlement, are also raising awareness about just how serious those injuries can be, and what long-term and life-altering effects they can have on victims and families. Now, the CDC is shedding light about how prevalent traumatic brain injuries (TBI) among children – both in sports and other forms of play.

According to new data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 283,000 kids in the Unites States seek emergency care in U.S. hospitals and emergency rooms every year for brain injuries arising from sports and recreational activities.

The report – published as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on March 15, 2019 – studied data on child traumatic brain injuries which resulted in treatment at emergency departments across the country between 2010 and 2016, as well as notations from treating physicians which identified sports or participation in other recreation as the underlying cause.

Some of the study’s most significant findings include:

  • In addition to the nearly 285,000 children who seek ER treatment for sports- and recreation-related (SRR) brain injuries, approximately 2 million kids in total went to U.S. emergency rooms for TBIs stemming from these causes over the study’s 7-year period.
  • Contact sports accounted for nearly half (45%) of all ER visits for SRR traumatic brain injuries.
  • Boys and children between the ages of 10-14 and 15-17 were most likely to sustain sports- and recreation-related brain injuries.
  • Sports and activities which accounted for the most TBI emergency room visits included football, bicycle riding, basketball, soccer, and playing on playgrounds.

With National Brain Injury Awareness Month just recently ending this type of insight is invaluable to spreading awareness about the prevalence and risks of traumatic brain injuries, especially among vulnerable children whose futures can be altered permanently and profoundly by such injuries.

According to experts and previous studies, 70% of all ER department visits involving sports- and recreation-related TBIs involve children. Because children have thinner cranial bones and nervous systems which are still developing, they may face increase risks for brain injuries – including injuries which can have far-reaching effects on their cognitive, emotional, and physical health, and their development.

Data like this has been an important motivator for educational campaigns promoting proper prevention and protection efforts in youth sports, including HEADS UP techniques and other measures that include:

  • Adopting rule changes to limit player-to-player collisions;
  • Employing policies which require immediate removal, evaluation, and reporting after children suffer head injuries;
  • Teaching young athletes strategies which reduce impacts to the head and risks for TBI; and
  • Identifying young athletes with increased risks for TBI through pre-participation examinations.

You can learn more about the CDC HEADS UP initiative here.

Although parents, coaches, schools, and sporting organizations can do a lot to protect children, history shows us widespread change to long-standing practices rarely comes without changes to the law. That’s a large part of why CSCS Partner Joseph Cammarata drafted the Youth Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011, which became law in the District of Columbia.

Among the first comprehensive legislative measures in the country designed to protect young athletes from brain injuries, the Act implemented important new rules for schools and youth sporting organizations throughout the District. Among them are special procedures for removing children from during practice or play after their suffer head injuries, reporting and return-to-play requirements, training for prevention efforts, resources for parents and the public, and more.

Committed to Protecting the Rights & Futures of Brain Injury Victims

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has a long history of fighting for brain injury victims and their families, and has been distinguished as “Preferred Attorneys” for the DC Metro area by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA).

We know brain injuries – from concussions in car accidents to the most severe injuries sustained in falls, workplace accidents, and commercial trucking accidents – can upend the lives of victims, subject them to long recoveries or life-altering disabilities, and create tremendous physical, emotional, and financial setbacks. As civil trial lawyers, we take pride in fighting for the compensation victims and families need when their injuries are caused by the negligence of others.

If you have questions about a brain injury case anywhere in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland, please call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online.