Concussion rates for high school students may be higher than believed
A new report from the CDC suggests more of the high school population have experienced a concussion than previously believed.
According to the findings published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, approximately 15% of US. high schoolers – 2.5 million teenagers – self-reported having at least one concussion related to sports or physical activity over a 1-year period.
This is a higher rate than previously estimated based on emergency department visits and athletic trainer reports according to Lara DePadilla, Ph.D. and co-authors from the CDC.
“Emergency department data miss concussions treated elsewhere, and athletic trainer reports miss concussions sustained outside of school-based sports; both sources miss medically untreated concussions,” the researchers wrote.
Overall, 9.1% of high school students reported having one concussion in the past 12-month-period, while 6% reported having two or more.
Concussions were significantly more common among males in the study, and among all students who played team sports. The risk of concussion also significantly grew for athletes that played multiple team sports.
The report is the result of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a cross-sectional study that surveyed 14,765 students in public and private schools between grades 9 and 12. 2017 was the first year the CDC included questions about concussions on the YRBS questionnaire.
While these findings may be concerning, the researchers note that the concussions were only based on student reporting and were not validated by any form of medical diagnosis or treatment record. Still, they indicate more need to monitor and assess concussions in young athletes.
In particular, the findings highlight the need to better identify concussions when students try to hide symptoms, as well as awareness efforts to prevent underreporting.
“Students might not always recognize or remember that they have experienced a concussion, or they might not want to report having experienced a concussion,” DePadilla and co-authors noted. “In this study, the opportunity to anonymously self-report a concussion, without negative consequences such as a loss of playing time, might have aided in including concussions missed by other data sources.”