Children as young as three years old are commonly suffering concussions and traumatic brain injuries, according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that 7% of U.S. children suffer a head injury during childhood and 12% of teens during adolescence. The findings were published in the National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief No. 302, for February 2018.
Concern over the head injury risks linked to youth sports has increased in recent years, as new studies indicate the far reaching effects concussions may have on children. And the number of children experiencing concussions continue to increase, doubling over the past decade.
The new report included data from the 2016 National Health Interview Survey. Parents or guardians answered questions about whether their children have ever had a significant head injury or concussion. The survey comes after a report published in 2016 warned more than 2 million American children suffer concussions each year, and most go untreated.
In the new study, 7% of children ages 3 to 17 suffered head injuries. About 8% of boys and 6% of girls have had a significant head injury in their lifetime.
As children aged, more were reported to have suffered head injuries. Among teens ages 15 to 17, 12% of children had suffered severe head injuries.
Teen boys were more likely to have suffered a blow to the head than girls. In fact, among every age group, boys are more likely than girls to suffer a head injury. In this age group, about 14% of teen boys and 9% of teen girls reported having had a head injury.
Health officials are especially wary, as other research has indicated far reaching side effects among children. Children who suffer head injuries have a higher likelihood of developing depression, experiencing emotional problems, having multiple sclerosis, or even simply experiencing a lower quality of life.
Children and adults who suffer concussions also have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
Researchers also noted that white children were more likely to have a head injury than black, Hispanic or other minority children.
The percentage of children to have suffered head injuries was higher among parents who had a level of education beyond a high school degree. Researchers speculated this may be because those children have more access to sports.
While the prevalence of head injuries among children in America may be alarming, the study also indicated the majority of those who had suffered a head injury, 81%, had only had one head injury.
However, a study published in 2013 indicated brain damage can be suffered even after only one concussion.
The majority of the head injuries occurred while the children were playing sports. However, other causes include falls, car accidents, injuries sustained from distracted walking, and fights.
Most children who suffer a head injury have improved symptoms within two weeks. However, it is unclear whether they may suffer long-term effects. Research published in 2013 indicated brain damage from a mild concussion was seen months after the symptoms of the initial blow had subsided.
Researchers warn that increased awareness and prevention efforts are needed to reduce concussion incidence among the nation’s youth.