Head Injuries Hit 1 in 14 Kids, CDC Reports

From Drugs.com - February 9, 2018

Head Injuries Hit 1 in 14 Kids, CDC Reports

FRIDAY, Feb. 9, 2018 -- Given the news of the devastating effects of head injuries among professional football players, parents may wonder if their mini athletes are at risk, too.

Some very well might be, new research suggests.

About 7 percent of children 3 to 17 years old have experienced a head injury, according to U.S. health officials.

The findings are part of a report on children's head injuries released Feb. 9 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More boys (8 percent) than girls (6 percent) have had a significant head injury, according to the data. And the older kids are, the more likely they are to have had such an injury. Nearly 12 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have had a significant head injury, the report showed.

This "suggests that as more children and teens engage in sports and other activities, the risk for a head injury also goes up," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The good news, he said, is that most children with a concussion improve within two weeks. It's not yet known if there are long-term effects from these injuries.

The CDC report included data from a nationally representative survey completed in 2016. Parents were asked if their children had ever had a concussion or other significant head injury.

However, the term "significant head injury" really does not accurately describe what has occurred, said Dr. Karl Klamar, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Such injuries, he said, are forms of mild traumatic brain injury.

"Euphemisms like 'seeing stars' or 'having your bell rung' have diminished the seriousness of these injuries," Klamar said.

He noted that most of these injuries occur during sports. Other causes include motor vehicle accidents, falls and, as kids get older, physical altercations.

One new cause of head injuries -- and one that's largely preventable -- is a fall caused by distracted walking.

"Kids just are not paying attention to what's in front of them," Glatter said. "They are looking at their phones and walking into light poles, windows and doorways."

The CDC report found that white children and kids with parents who have more than a high school education are the most likely to sustain a head injury. Klamar said that's probably because those kids have more access to sports.

What happens, then, when a child younger than 17 has a head injury?

"The results are phenomenally variable," Klamar said. "Kids may experience symptoms for a few minutes to a few hours to a few months. Every injury is different."


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