One in Five Teens Report a History of Concussion

Megan Brooks

September 27, 2017

About 20% of US adolescents have experienced at least one concussion, and those teens were more likely to play competitive sports than their concussion-free peers, new research suggests.

"These findings are consistent with those from emergency department and regional studies that show that participation in sports is one of the leading causes of concussions among adolescents, and that youth involved in contact sports are at an increased risk for sustaining concussions," the investigators, led by Phil Veliz, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, write.

The study was published in the September 26 issue of JAMA.  

The investigators analyzed data on 13,088 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years who participated in the 2016 Monitoring the Future survey, an annual, in-school survey of US students in grades 8, 10, and 12.  About half of the students were female and 47% were white.

The survey included the question, "Have you ever had a head injury that was diagnosed as a concussion?"

Results showed that an estimated 19.5% of students reported at least one diagnosed concussion, with 14.0% reporting one concussion and 5.5% reporting more than one concussions.

Students most likely to report a history of concussion were males in older grades who said they took part in competitive sports. 

While the study didn't determine how the adolescents sustained concussion, the researchers say the odds of being diagnosed with more than one concussion was higher in adolescents who played contact sports (11.1%; adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 4.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.29 - 7.09) or semi-contact sports (5.2%; AOR, 2.45; 95% CI,1.64 - 3.66), relative to those who didn't participate in sports or played a noncontact sport.

About 22% of adolescents reporting a diagnosed concussion played a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or lacrosse, in the past 12 months, and 29% participated in a semi-contact sport, such as baseball, basketball, field hockey, or soccer.

A limitation of the study is the self-report measure of concussion.

Until now, little was known about the prevalence and factors associated with concussions among US adolescents. "Providing a national baseline of concussion prevalence and correlates is necessary to target and monitor prevention efforts to reduce these types of injuries during this important developmental period," the investigators write.

"Greater effort to track concussions using large-scale epidemiological data are needed to identify high-risk subpopulations and monitor prevention efforts," they conclude.

Concern about the long-term effects of concussion sustained while playing contact sports during adolescence and young adulthood is growing. A recent study published in Translational Psychiatry found that playing organized football before age 12 years may have significant behavioral and cognitive consequences in adulthood.

As reported by Medscape Medical News, the study showed that children who began playing the game before age 12 had a threefold increased risk for depression and a twofold increased risk for impaired behavioral regulation, apathy, and impaired executive function compared with their counterparts who started playing at age 12 or older.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

JAMA. 2017;318:1180-1182. Abstract

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