US study warns of child concussion risk

Most children who get concussions from sports and other recreational activities don’t see a doctor about their injuries, an American study has revealed


Image: REUTERS/Yuya Shino

As many as 1.9 million American children get concussions every year but most parents don’t realise that therapies are available to treat injured children, researchers say.

The study, carried out by teams from the University of Washington, the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Colorado, found that up to 51% of child concussions go untreated.

“There are many reasons kids are not seen in healthcare settings for concussions including issues with identification and recognition of concussions,” Dr. Mersine Bryan of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute said.

Of the children who did receive medical care for concussions, about 378,000 got treatment in outpatient clinics, according to the study, while an additional 115,000 to 167,000 children got care in emergency departments.

In the UK, fears over concussions and other injuries led more than 70 doctors and medical experts to call for a ban on tackling in school rugby games earlier this year.

In an open letter addressed to ministers, chief medical officers and children’s commissioners, the doctors warned:

“A link has been found between repeat concussions and cognitive impairment and an association with depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities.”

The letter also warned that children take longer to recover to normal levels on memory, reaction speed and post-concussive symptoms than adults after such injuries.

The NHS says that while mild concussion can be treated at home, anyone with more severe symptoms should seek immediate medical treatment.

Such symptoms include mental confusion, drowsiness that lasts longer than one hour, problems speaking or weakness in arms or legs.

It also says there is no internationally agreed consensus on advice about when it is safe to return to playing a contact sport after concussion.

Commenting on the results of the US study, concussion expert Anthony Kontos from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said:

“The fact that kids aren’t being seen by healthcare professionals trained in concussion following this injury is a problem and we need to do a better job of educating parents, coaches and kids of the benefits of seeking appropriate and timely clinical care.”

For information and advice about concussions, visit the NHS website at 

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