Study: Concussions Spike 500 Percent Among Young People

July 26, 2016

Youth football season, for decades a source of local pride, has evolved into something more ominous because of an increasing vulnerability to concussions.

A new study published by Fair Health, a not-for-profit that compiles an independent database of healthcare costs, found that more concussions occur between September and October each year. (Those months coincide with youth football seasons throughout the United States.) According to the study, which used insurance claims from 2007-15 for ages 22 and under, 46 percent of diagnosed concussions involve some age 15 to 18. Also, concussion diagnoses for people under age 22 increased 500 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Dr. Subramani Seetharama, medical director of the Hartford Hospital Rehabilitation Network, says parents and athletes should not get caught up in the moment. When young people feel any symptoms after receiving a blow to the head, they should take action. Immediately.

“I tell kids, if you have a headache, get off the field,” he said during a recent appearance on Fox 61. “Studies show if they continue playing, there is a 40 percent chance they will have a prolonged symptom scale and they’re going to miss school.”

The same message applies to parents and coaches, he said:

“If you see a head hit, you should pull your child out. You should have the coach pull your child out. This is the story I always hear: They get hit in the first quarter, they go back to play and by the time they get in the car and they’re going home, they’re telling their parents they have a headache. So I always tell them, take them out if you see a head hit. That’s the most important thing. You have to give that brain a chance to heal.”

Dr. Seetharama says medical suggests 70 percent of young athletes who leave a game after take a direct hit to the head recover within seven days of the concussion.

“The statistic that’s always thrown out is 85 percent of people recover from concussion in three to seven days. It’s that 15 percent that we’re trying to work out."

Concussion Symptoms:

  • Dazed or confused after your injuryLost consciousness (knocked out)
  • Can't remember what happened for a short time before or after your injury
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Stumbling or clumsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Headache
  • Unusual drowsiness
  • Slurred Speech

Dr. Seetharama, who treats mostly adolescents, said doctors have still found no effective method to properly diagnose a concussion, with up to 25 percent undiagnosed.

“There’s no test,” he said, “there’s no MRI, there’s no X-ray. All we’ve done so far is treat patients. We treat the symptoms. We’re trying to get them back to school more than get them back to play.”

Seetharama recommends three days’ post-concussion rest for young people before gradually resuming activities. Not football or other contact sports, but some running or perhaps a walk with the dog.

“Stay off your phone, stay off TV and computers,” he said. “Don't read. It’s three days of really good rest.”

Hartford HealthCare Press Contact

  • Shawn Mawhiney
    Director of Communications