Sports-related brain injuries in youngsters soar, CDC says

Thu Oct 6, 2011 1:48pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Traumatic brain injuries in youth athletes climbed by 60 percent in the last decade, with young men injured playing football or biking accounting for most of the emergency room visits, data released on Thursday showed.

But one reason for the rise might be increased awareness of the dangers of head injuries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report.

The number of youngsters with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, soared from 153,375 in 2001 to 248,418 eight years later.

The sports that caused the most injuries included riding bikes, football, playground activities, basketball and soccer, the CDC said.

A further breakdown by the CDC showed trips to the ER as a result of these injuries varied by gender and age group.

Young men accounted for 71 percent of TBI-related emergency room visits.

Kids between the ages of 10 and 19 years old accounted for more than 70 percent of all hospital trips, it said.

Boys were most often injured playing football and bicycling, while young women were hurt more often playing soccer, basketball or bike riding, the report said.

Those under the age of nine were more likely to be hurt on the playground or while riding a bike.

One reason for the increase in TBI's and emergency room visits was a heightened awareness among parents and coaches to the potential threat of a head injury, CDC researchers said.

When compared to adults, youngsters with a TBI experience "longer recovery times and are at greater risk of serious outcomes," according to the CDC.

"While some research shows a child's developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI," said Richard Hunt, director of CDC's Division for Injury Response.

Although TBI symptoms may appear mild at the onset, this type of injury could cause life-long impairment, the report said, affecting memory, behavior, learning and emotions.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Greg McCune)

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