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ER visits for sports-related brain injuries fell 32% over last decade as fewer kids played football

The number of American children visiting emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries has declined as fewer kids played football, a new report finds.

Visits to ERs for sports-related hits to the head fell by one-third over the last decade, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Thursday.

This comes after the previous decade, the noughties, saw an increase in visits by as much as 112 percent.

The team says the decline is due to a sharp drop in the number of children joining contact sports programs, and particularly for football, which has been shown to increase the risk of dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurological condition associated with repeated head trauma.   

Researchers from the CDC looked at sports-related ER visits for children under 17 years old between 2001 and 2019 (file image)

Researchers from the CDC looked at sports-related ER visits for children under 17 years old between 2001 and 2019 (file image)

Researchers from the CDC looked at sports-related ER visits for children under 17 years old between 2001 and 2019 (file image)

After a decade of increasing rates, visits for traumatic brain injuries dropped by 32% from 2012 to 2018 (above)

After a decade of increasing rates, visits for traumatic brain injuries dropped by 32% from 2012 to 2018 (above)

After a decade of increasing rates, visits for traumatic brain injuries dropped by 32% from 2012 to 2018 (above)

For the report, researchers analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program between 2001 and 2018.

Over this time period, 3.8 million visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occurred among children younger than 17 years old. 

After a decade of increasing rates, visits for TBIs dropped by 32 percent between 2012 and 2018. 

From 2010 to 2016, there was an average of 283,000 ER visits per year for US children with sports or recreation-related (SRR) TBIs.

About 45 percent were from playing contact sports and about 25 percent were from playing football specifically. 

Overall, there was a 39 percent decline in football-related TBIs from 2013 to 2018. 

The team says this is likely due to a drop in kids playing in organized football programs, although it is still one of the most popular youth sports.  

Researchers found a 39% decline in football-related TBIs between 2013 and 2018 (above) as fewer children played the sport

Researchers found a 39% decline in football-related TBIs between 2013 and 2018 (above) as fewer children played the sport

Researchers found a 39% decline in football-related TBIs between 2013 and 2018 (above) as fewer children played the sport

Participation haa declined by 24 percent overall since 2010, with a 12 percent reduction alone between 2016 and 2017.

Safety guidelines and restrictions have also reduced the risk for concussions and other brain injuries among children.

For example, in 2012, the the National Federation of State High School Associations set guidelines for the amount and frequency of full-contact drills that could occur during practices.     

Tackling makes up two-thirds of all concussions and other brain injuries among high school football players. 

However, techniques that teach players to not aim for the head reduce concussion risk by up to 33 percent, according to the report.

The researchers note that the study has limitations, such only looking at rates for kids who went to the ER when many don’t seek medical treatment for brain injuries. 

‘Children participating in SRR activities are at risk for TBI,’ the authors wrote. 

‘Therefore, expanding efforts to identify effective SRR-TBI prevention strategies will help ensure that children can continue to stay healthy and active.’ 

Source: Daily Mail

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