It’s Not Just Contact Sports: Youth Concussions Result from Broad Range of Activities

A new study from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that activities children engage in on a daily basis can result in concussions. While the majority of concussions were related to sports and recreational activity (70 percent), 30 percent were due to non-sports and non-recreational mechanisms. Of importance, only 40 percent of all concussions were from contact sports.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers examined the mechanism of injury for concussion among more than 1,500 children ages 0-17 who were seen for medical evaluation at CHOP, a large and diverse pediatric healthcare system.

“Injury mechanism varies by age,” said Christina Master, MD, senior study author and a pediatric primary care sports medicine specialist at CHOP. “Sports and recreation-related activities become the primary source of concussions beginning at age 6, increase in proportion up to age 10, remaining constant until age 16, then take a small dip at age 17 which may be due to an uptick in motor vehicle crash injury and attrition from sports.”

Overall, collision or contact activities like football or soccer were the cause of 40 percent of all concussions, with the remaining concussions occurring in limited or non-contact sports and recreation activities (playground, recess, gym) and non-sports and non-recreation activities (falls, motor vehicle crashes, intentional assaults).

The combination of gym class, recess, and playground (all similar activities) would represent the fourth most common sports and recreation-related activity – following football, soccer, and basketball and ahead of ice hockey.

“Clinicians and school-based personnel need to be aware of the fact that concussions also happen in life and not just sports and must also have the appropriate index of suspicion for diagnosing these injuries.” said Dr. Master.

“This study tells us that we need to extend traumatic brain injury prevention and management outside of youth sports to ensure all children who sustain a concussion, receive the necessary care to return to daily childhood activities including school and play,” says Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa, PhD, study lead author and senior health scientist at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The Concussion Care for Kids: Minds Matter website from CHOP contains free resources for learning about signs of concussion, recovery and prevention strategies. Additional resources for healthcare providers and others involved in the care of children are available from CDC through HEADS UP to Youth Sports.

Juliet Haarbauer-Krupa, PhD , et al. “Variations in Mechanisms of Injury for Children with Concussion.” Journal of Pediatrics. Online April 4, 2018https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.01.075

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