There is statistic going around the press that has been concerning me.  The basic quote goes like this…

“For young people ages 15 to 24 years old, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury, following only behind motor vehicle crashes.” 

This sentence or a version of it is on many major network news websites and Congressman Udall’s site and most concussion sites but not the CDC site. As of last Saturday, NO ONE had a footnote or a source for such a bold, specific statement so I set out to see if I could find the source.

I found this exact sentence in this 2007 Study using google:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2140075/#i1062-6050-42-4-495-b1

This sentence in the 2007 study is marked with footnote referring to its source which is a 1991 study:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8680392

Abstract

The 1991 National Health Interview Survey was analysed to describe the incidence of mild and moderate brain injury in the United States. Data were collected from 46,761 households and weighted to reflect all non-institutionalized civilians. The report of one or more occurrences of head injury resulting in loss of consciousness in the previous 12 months was the main outcome measure. Each year an estimated 1.5 million non-institutionalized US civilians sustain a non-fatal brain injury that does not result in institutionalization, a rate of 618 per 100,000 person-years.

Motor vehicles were involved in 28% of the brain injuries, sports and physical activity were responsible for 20%, and assaults were responsible for 9%. Medical care was sought by 75% of those with brain injury; 14% were treated in clinics or offices, 35% were treated in emergency departments, and 25% were hospitalized. The risk of medically attended brain injury was highest among three subgroups: teens and young adults, males, and persons with low income who lived alone. The incidence of mild and moderate brain injury in the United States is substantial. The National Health Interview Survey is an important national source of current outpatient brain-injury data”

From my research on google, it seems this “fact” stems from this 1991 study which would make this information very dated in 2013, to be quoted without a source.  I cannot get a copy of 1991 study yet but the study seems to be talking about adults in this sentence and the category is “sports and physical activity” which is also very broad. Also, this seems to be only using LOC – pre 2008 Zurich – as a factor and we now know that LOC only occurs in 10% of concussions.

I have asked someone I know at the CDC to look it into the matter for me. I hope someone proves me wrong and we do have valid, specific data like this but I believe we do not.

We must be honest how “limited in value” the stats are that we have. For example, any study pre-2008 Zurich concerning concussions would seem to be dated to me if LOC was used as the sole determination of concussion.

Why is this important? Because we must know why and where each age group is getting hurt so we can direct resources to educate and try to reduce concussion.

And even within concussions for a particular youth sport, I would like to see concussion numbers broken down by specifics as then one could target the issue at hand.

Did the child or teen get concussed…

– Playing in a game (with refs present)

– Participating in practice drill (coaches in charge of play)

– Fooling around in practice not following directions and rules (coach present but not watching)

– Pre/Post practice with no adult at all watching in locker room or parking lot.

I would also like to see a study that looks at the use of drugs and alcohol with teens and concussions. As I follow social media and concussions, I look at what teens are posting on social media sites (non Facebook sites) where parents do not monitor their posts. I see so many teens post about being drunk or high when they were concussed.

Hopefully better data is coming soon to help guide our efforts, resources, time and money.

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