RICHARDSON, Texas, Sept. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fall means football, and that brings the start of concussion season. And like the football flying off the hands of the quarterback, the number of people diagnosed with concussions is soaring.
Concussion diagnoses among teenagers have skyrocketed as expansive news media coverage of football-related concussions and state legislation aimed at preventing participants of youth sports from "shaking off" signs of head injuries have drawn attention to the dangers of head injuries, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Concussion diagnoses among adults also rose significantly over the past six years.
Nationally, the number of concussions grew 40 percent from 2010 to 2015. The most dramatic uptick in concussion diagnoses was for patients ages 10 through 19. For them, concussion diagnoses jumped 69 percent in Texas from 2010 to 2015. Diagnoses for young males occurred 49 percent more often than for young females.
These significant numbers are part of a national Health of America report released by BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence. The report, "The Steep Rise in Concussion Diagnoses in the U.S.," represents a comprehensive study of medical claims for 936,630 diagnosed concussions suffered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) commercially-insured members from 2010 through 2015.
Fueling the trend:
- So-called 'shake-it-off" laws to help protect student athletes who are often reluctant to leave a football game after sustaining a possible concussion.
- The "Helmets Off" rule, requiring a player to leave the game for the next down if the player's helmet comes fully off through a play.
- Greater awareness after the National Football League, facing lawsuits from thousands of former players, adopted new rules. Now teams face large fines and possible loss of draft picks if they fail to take players out of games.
- News reports on concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in current and former football players. The progressive disease of the brain is found in athletes and others with repetitive brain trauma.1 It's been in the news for years, said to be a cause in the deaths of nearly 100 professional athletes.
Young children, teenagers and young adults are particularly at risk because their brains are still developing. Fall is peak concussion season, with football, soccer and other sports in full swing. Here are five things you should know about concussions to help keep young athletes healthy and safe:
1. Know the Facts
A concussion is not just a bump on the head and a bad headache; it's a traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion can occur from a fall or blow to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. This jostling can damage the brain. Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat nearly 175,000 children and teens for sports-related TBIs, including concussions — and they're not all due to football. The activities that cause the greatest number of TBI-related emergency department visits include football, bicycling, basketball and soccer. Plus, playground injuries are one of the leading causes of recreation-related TBIs in children ages 9 and under. So no matter what sport or recreational activity your child is involved in, you should be on the alert for concussions.
2. Know the Symptoms
A young athlete doesn't need to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Because signs of a concussion can be subtle, you might miss them if you're not looking for them. Also, children and adolescents may not report their symptoms, so be alert to new symptoms or changes in behavior. Some symptoms show up right away, some might not show up for a few days.
Subtle signs a young athlete may have a concussion:
- Appears dazed or stunned
- Clumsy movements
- Delayed response to questions
- Behavior, mood or personality changes
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Ringing ears
- Memory loss prior to or after the injury
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Sleeps more or less than normal
3. Know When to Contact a Healthcare Provider
You can't see a concussion, only the symptoms of one, so any time a concussion is suspected, the athlete should be immediately evaluated by a healthcare provider.
Some warning signs that warrant immediate medical help include:
- Headache that does not go away, is severe or gets worse
- Changes in mental function or behavior
- Weakness and/or numbness in any part of the body
- Poor coordination, restlessness or agitation
- Vomiting or stiff neck
- Slurred speech
- Extreme drowsiness, confusion or decreased alertness
- Unequal pupils or other visual changes
- Convulsions or seizures
- Loss of consciousness
Also keep in mind that head injuries may be accompanied by injuries to other parts of the body, such as the neck or spine.
4. Know How Long to Keep Kids Out of the Game
Research shows that young athletes recover from concussions slower than adults. A player who returns to the game while still suffering concussion symptoms is at risk for serious, permanent brain damage. That is why it's so important for young athletes to be symptom-free and cleared by a healthcare provider before restarting any activity.
Rest can help the brain heal after a concussion. Check with your physician for specific recommendations related to activity limitations following a concussion and how and when to return to regular activities. They may recommend time away from practice, games and exercise. Your child may need to ease back into school and might need extra time with tests and schoolwork. Following a concussion, young athletes may also need to ease back into sports gradually, working up to full speed and full contact.
5. Know How to Lower Risk of a Concussion
There is no sure-fire way to prevent a concussion. But there are steps you can take to lower your young athlete's risk for one.
- Properly fitted bicycle helmets should be worn for all bicycling activities.
- Athletes should wear appropriate and properly fitted helmets and gear for contact sports, including football and hockey.
- Make sure you and your child are familiar with all team and league concussion and safe-play policies.
- Educate yourself and your child about concussion symptoms.
- Encourage your child to report all episodes of head trauma and injury immediately. Let them know it's better to sit out a short while recovering than risk missing the entire season — or worse — because of an early return.
This is the ninth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care. For more information, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX) – the only statewide, customer-owned health insurer in Texas – is the largest provider of health benefits in the state, working with nearly 80,000 physicians and 500 hospitals to serve 5 million members in all 254 counties. BCBSTX is a Division of Health Care Service Corporation (which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico), the country's largest customer-owned health insurer and fourth largest health insurer overall. Health Care Service Corporation is a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
BCBSTX.com | Twitter.com/BCBSTX | Facebook.com/BlueCrossBlueShieldOfTexas | YouTube.com/BCBSTX
About Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 106 million members – one in three Americans. For more information on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and its member companies, please visit www.BCBS.com. We encourage you to connect with us on Facebook, check out our videos on YouTube, follow us on Twitter and check out The BCBS Blog for up-to-date information about BCBSA.
Health Intelligence Company is the nation's premier health intelligence resource, delivering data-driven insights about healthcare trends and best practices, resulting in healthier lives and more affordable access to safe and effective care. HIC accesses healthcare claims data from more than 140 million individuals nationwide, collected over nine years, in a safe, HIPAA compliant and secure database. The resulting conformed, reliable data set has the broadest, deepest pool of integrated medical and pharmacy claims, reflecting medical utilization in every ZIP code. Health Intelligence Company, LLC operates under the trade name Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) and is an Independent Licensee of BCBSA. For more information, visit http://www.bluehealthintelligence.com/.
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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas