Legislation that requires the use of protocols to address children with head injuries seems to be doing its job.
There was a time when adults or children who suffered an injury during a sports event were expected to “shake it off.” In recent years, both in the courtroom and in the pathology lab, evidence is being brought to bear about the dangers of head hits at any age.
In 2017, a study that evaluated the brains of 111 deceased former National Football League players found that 110 of those players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease thought to be triggered by successive hits to the head. Researchers believe that either hard or mild blows to the head can contribute to chronic brain dysfunction or disease.
Concern over the health of younger players has already caused parents to reconsider whether their child should play youth football. Participation in youth football programs has declined across the country in response to concern about the potential for brain damage.
To address the danger, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia enacted legislation to define and respond to head injury in youth sports—not just football. Scientists at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital wanted to understand what outcomes, if any, resulted from the wave of legislation that took effect between 2009 and 2014.
Before and after TBI-protocol legislation, what’s the difference?
In the study, published in the journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, researchers evaluated 452,900 Emergency Department visits of which 123,192 resulted from mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Trends identified by the research team include the following:
- Visits to the ED for mTBI are more common for males, children between the ages of 10 to 14 years, and the privately insured.
- The rate by which TBIs were reported and evaluated in the ED increased over time as youth TBI protocols were enacted and integrated in athletic programs. The uptick in ED evaluations of mTBI is critical to early intervention programs to identify and treat the sometimes long-term symptoms of head injury.
- The study found that approximately 2.5 years after legislation was enacted, the rate of concussion began to decline.
Of the increase in ED visits for mTBI, lead author, Dr. Ginger Yang, notes, “This is what we want to see, an increase in ED visits for youth sports TBIs shows the laws are working – more children are getting evaluated by a healthcare professional, which is one of the key tenets of youth TBI laws.”
Any concussion is a TBI. And any insult to the brain, whether it is on the playing field or during a surgical procedure, can have devastating lifetime consequences. Get good medical care and speak with an experienced injury attorney if the injury is caused by negligence or medical malpractice.
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