Brain injuries continue to rise among girls, especially high schoolers, study says

A new study cites a steep rise since 2000 in traumatic brain injuries among children using sports and recreational equipment. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
A new study cites a steep rise since 2000 in traumatic brain injuries among children using sports and recreational equipment. File Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- Traumatic brain injuries in children involving sports and recreational equipment have increased significantly since 2000, a new study reports.

And while the incidence of this type of injury peaked in 2012 and then declined in boys, it increased substantially among girls, especially high-schoolers.


That's the bottom line from a study published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The investigators analyzed what they term "consumer product-related" traumatic brain injuries, meaning injuries involving sports and recreational equipment, among school-aged children over a 20-year period, evaluating trends by breaking data down by age groups, levels of education, and gender.

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in children up to age 4 and between 15 and 19 years old, according to a news release.

"With 308,000 average annual cases in the United States, such accidents have become frequent among school-aged children participating in sports and playground activities that involve equipment," such as bicycling, football, basketball, and soccer, the release said.

While the overall incidence of this type of injury was higher among boys than girls, the researchers found that "annual percentage increases since 2013 were most elevated in girls, especially those of high-school age," the study's news release said.


"While it appears that efforts to decrease TBI in children's sports have been effective, our findings suggest that more focused efforts are needed among girls," Dr. Tuan D. Le, the study's lead investigator, said in the news release.

Le said it turns into a balancing act finding ways to heighten awareness of how to avoid high risk activities without discouraging children from taking part in exercise.

Le is an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Community and Rural Health, at the University of Texas Tyler Health Science Center.

The study used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program for initial emergency department visits for this type of brain injury from January 2000 to December 2019, involving 6.2 million children ages 5 to 18.

The researchers found a significant increase in consumer product-related traumatic brain injuries incidents over time, accounting for more than 12% of all U.S. hospital emergency department visits by school-aged children in 2019, up from 4.5% in 2000.

The rate of increase stabilized after peaking in 2012, to a 3.6% annual level over the entire study period.

The researchers said in a news release the stabilized injury rate may be partly due to greater public awareness of the risks that children may face from contact sports, along with increased incident reporting and more effective prevention and treatment.


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