More children suffer head injuries playing recreational sport than team sport

Study finds children who do recreational sports like bike riding are more likely to suffer serious head injuries than children who play contact sport like AFL or rugby.

Media Release:

An Australian/ New Zealand study examining childhood head injuries has found that children who do recreational sports like horse riding, skate boarding and bike riding are more likely to suffer serious head injuries* than children who play contact sport like AFL or rugby.

Research**, conducted by the PREDICT research network, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), published on Wiley and soon to be published in the Australian Medical Journal, examined the data of 8,857 children presenting with head injuries to ten emergency departments in Australian and New Zealand hospitals.

A third of the children, who were aged between five and 18 years, injured themselves playing sport. Of these children four out of five were boys.

Lead research author, MCRI’s Professor Franz Babl, says the team looked at ‘íntracranial’ injuries in children because while there is a lot of interest about sport and concussion, less is understood about the severity of head injuries children suffer while playing sport.

“The study found that in children who presented to the emergency departments after head injury and participated in recreational sports like horse riding, skate boarding and bike riding were more likely to sustain serious head injuries than children who played contact sport like AFL, rugby, soccer or basketball,” he says.

“We found that 45 of the 3,177 sports-related head injuries were serious and classified as clinically important Traumatic Brain Injury (ciTBI), meaning the patient required either neuro-surgery, at least two nights in hospital and/or being placed on a breathing machine. One child died as a result of head injuries.”

Prof Babl says that the sports which resulted in the most frequent reason for presentation to emergency departments included bike riding (16 per cent), rugby (13 per cent), AFL (10 per cent), other football (9 per cent), and soccer (8 per cent).

The most frequent causes of serious injury included bike riding (44 per cent), skateboarding (18 per cent), horse riding (16 per cent), with AFL and rugby resulting in one serious head injury each and soccer resulting none.

A total of 524 patients with sports-related head injuries (16 per cent) needed CT imaging, and 14 children required surgery.

Should You Really Be Behind the Wheel After Concussion?

MINNEAPOLIS – Even after all of their symptoms are gone, people who have had a concussion take longer to regain complex reaction times, the kind you need in most real-life driving situations on the road, according to a preliminary study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Sports Concussion Virtual Conference from July 31 to August 1, 2020. The preliminary results could have implications for how quickly experts recommend drivers get back behind the wheel after a concussion.

“People who have concussions often have slower reaction times as a result, and do more poorly on tests of thinking skills after their injury than their peers without concussions,” said Julianne D. Schmidt, Ph.D., ATC, of the University of Georgia in Athens. “Our study suggests that complicated driving skills, the kind involving split-second reaction times that could mean the difference between life and death, are the ones that may take the longest to regain after you have a concussion—even when all of your symptoms have resolved.”

The study involved 28 college students with valid drivers’ licenses and an average age of 20, including 14 with concussions and 14 without. Ten of the 14 concussed students experienced concussions while playing sports. All college students were matched by age, sex, and driving experience. Participants completed both a simulated driving reaction time test and a computerized neurocognitive test within 48 hours of their concussion symptoms resolving, which occurred an average of 16 days after the injury.

The driving reaction time test consisted of two simulated driving scenarios. The first scenario involved a stoplight reaction time simulation in which the stoplight changed from green to yellow and participants had to rapidly choose to brake or accelerate. The second scenario involved a child running in front of a vehicle and participants needed to brake or swerve to avoid collision.

The computerized test consisted of four measures of reaction time including simple, complex, and Stroop reaction time, which is the lag that occurs when you are asked to select a word like “blue” that is printed in a different color.

The drivers who had concussions demonstrated slower computerized complex reaction times than those who did not have concussions by an average of 0.06 seconds. When reacting to a change in stoplight color, it took those with concussions 0.24 seconds longer to react, or the equivalent of 15.6 feet in stopping distance, compared to those without concussions. During the driving simulation involving a child running in front of a car, it took those with concussions 0.06 seconds longer to react, or the equivalent of 3.3 feet in stopping distance, compared to those without concussions. Slower reaction time is a strong predictor of crash risk, and these additional split seconds and feet needed to change the vehicle’s movement could be critical for avoiding an accident. Interestingly, only the computerized complex and Stroop reaction times moderately related to the driving stoplight reaction time, and no other relationships were observed, suggesting computerized reaction time measures are not a perfect replacement for measuring real-life driving reaction times.

“Overall, after the symptoms of the drivers with concussions resolved, their reaction times were similar to drivers who didn’t have concussions. However, when we looked specifically at stoplight reaction time, we saw lingering deficits in the drivers who had concussions,” Schmidt said. “This could mean traditional reaction time tests aren’t the best measure of driving responsiveness and readiness. And that could have important public safety implications, considering more than three million people have sports-related concussions in the United States each year.”

High school athletes require longer recovery following concussions

Press Release:

DETROIT – Young athletes are sidelined for at least one month after suffering a concussion, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study that provides new perspective on concussions and brain injuries.

The study’s results were published ahead of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s recent announcement that the fall high school sports season will begin as traditionally scheduled, with football practices starting on Aug. 10.

The findings published by Orthopedics, a nationally recognized, peer-reviewed journal for orthopedic surgeons, are from a study conducted between September 2013 and December 2016. The study focused on 357 high school adolescents who sustained one or more concussions by analyzing historical data and then comparing it to more recent findings tied to an increase in reported concussions among young athletes.

The average age of the study’s patients was 15-and-a-half years with nearly 62% being males, the most common sport participated in by these athletes was football, followed by hockey and then soccer. From the study’s participants, 14 % reported suffering from amnesia and 33 % reported a history of concussions. Results of the study include:

  • Athletes with only one concussion required just over 30 days of recovery prior to returning to sport (RTS) while others who reported a second or more concussions required more time.
  • The most common sport of injury was football (27.7%). There was a high incidence of previous concussion (33.1%), and 32 athletes sustained a recurrent concussion.
  • Visual motor speed and reaction time scores decreased with recurrent concussions.
  • Male and female athletes with a previous history of concussion, and those with delayed diagnosis, required increased time to RTS.

The research team also found that athletes who have suffered concussions have a higher incidence of non-contact lower extremity injuries due to balance issues after concussions which may have implications on the performance, safety and well-being of athletes. These findings will be the focus of the next study also led by Toufic Jildeh, M.D., administrative chief resident in Orthopaedic Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

One of the earliest studies on concussion data came from the NFL’s mild traumatic brain injury committee and was published in the journal Neurosurgery in January 2004. Based on data collected between 1996 and 2001, researchers found that NFL players were sidelined for six or fewer days after a concussion.

A related 2019 study also led by Dr. Jildeh and published in American Journal of Sports Medicine showed a similar trend with NFL players being sidelined much longer.

“Historically, the literature reported a concussion prevalence of 4-5%, however recent studies have found that nearly 20% of adolescents have suffered at least one concussion, there’s a huge disparity in terms of reporting over time,” says Dr. Jildeh. Previously, it was thought that young age was a protective factor against concussion and that the neuroplasticity offered fast recovery. However, this thinking has been disproven with more recent studies.

Concussions have been a pressing issue. We want to limit the number of concussions and head injuries in a young athlete,” says Vasilios (Bill) Moutzouros, M.D., chief of Sports Medicine at Henry Ford and a study co-author, adding that younger athletes who suffer a concussion early in life are much more likely to experience longer term effects if they get repeatedly concussed.

Kelechi Okoroha, M.D., a Henry Ford sports medicine surgeon and study co-author, points to the findings as a baseline for young athletes with a history of concussions, “Depending on the number of concussions, the 30-day mark gives us a baseline for how much time adolescent athletes required before returning to sport,” he says.

The study offers a lot of information to reflect on and build on according to Jeffrey Kutcher, M.D., medical director and sports neurologist at the Henry Ford Concussion and Sports Neurology Clinic, and global director of the Kutcher Clinic.

Concussion diagnosis and management requires an individualized and comprehensive neurological approach to ensure we are accurately diagnosing and managing return to play effectively,” says Dr. Kutcher who also serves as advisor to the players’ associations for the National Football League and National Hockey League.

The study concludes that team physicians must be particularly mindful when evaluating an adolescent athlete due to the short and long-term neurocognitive implications, particularly as it pertains to RTS, and that high school athletes sustaining a concussion require careful attention when determining RTS readiness.

Concussions associated with cognitive, behavioral, and emotional consequences for students

Concussions can have a compounding effect on children, leading to long-term cognitive, behavioral, and emotional health consequences, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), who published their findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

In 2017, approximately 2.5 million high school students in the United States reported suffering at least one concussion related to sports or physical activity in the last 12 months, according to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The UTHealth researchers analyzed survey data from more than 13,000 high school students in the United States. According to the authors, it is the first study to report on the association between sports-related concussions and negative health implications based on a representative sample of U.S. high school students.

“We have previously speculated that children who suffer a concussion have more behavioral problems, so this study was able to provide a more comprehensive analysis on the various cognitive and behavioral health issues that this population faces in connection with this type of brain injury,” said Gregory Knell, PhD, the study’s first and corresponding author. Knell is an assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health in Dallas and is research faculty at Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

A concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury, caused by a mild blow to the head. Common symptoms include a headache, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, drowsiness, and blurry vision.

Participants were asked how many times they had suffered a concussion from playing a sport or during physical activity in the last 12 months. Students were also surveyed on relevant cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors and related health outcomes, including questions on topics such as academics, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.

The study revealed that 14.5% of female high school athletes and 18.1% of male high school athletes reported experiencing at least one concussion the previous year. These students also reported at least one factor associated to their behavioral, cognitive, and emotional health. The questions covered topics such as difficulty concentrating, poor grades, drinking and driving, carrying a weapon, getting into a physical altercation, using tobacco or marijuana, binge drinking, feeling depressed, and having suicidal thoughts or actions.

Of the male participants who suffered at least one concussion, 33.8% reported they drank and drove in the last 30 days. For the female athletes who reported suffering more than one concussion, 19% stated they had used marijuana at least once in the last 30 days. Both male and female participants who answered that they had been in at least one physical fight in the last year were significantly more likely to have reported having at least one concussion in that same timeframe.

Other associated factors that were significantly more likely in male students who reported a prior concussion included difficulty concentrating, tobacco/e-cigarette use, and binge drinking. Female students who reported prior concussions were more likely to ride in a car with a driver who had been drinking, and have suicidal thoughts or actions.

“Parents need to understand that a concussion is a very serious brain injury, one which requires treatment every time a concussion is sustained. This study has revealed this type of traumatic brain injury can have a compounding effect on children that could lead to more aggressive behavior, academic problems, and social issues,” said study co-author Scott Burkhart, PsyD, a neuropsychologist at Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.

The research team encourages future studies to continue the surveillance on the prevalence of concussions among student athletes, as well as the severity of these injuries.

Press Release from UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT HOUSTON