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Study Finds More Concussions Reported Among Teens in Recent Years

The number of teens reporting to have suffered concussions increased in recent years, which may be due to greater awareness about the serious risks associated with a traumatic brain injury, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers indicate a quarter of teens in the United States have suffered at least one concussion in their lifetime, with new data which indicates an increase in overall teen concussion rates.

Researchers used national cross-sectional data from the 2016-2020 Monitoring the Future (MTF) initiative, which is an annual school-based survey of 8th-, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted between February and June each school year. The study included nearly 53,000 teens. and is a national representation of teens overall.

The MTF stopped data collection for the 2020 survey early on March 14, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but maintained a representative sample.

According to the findings, the rates of self-reported concussions increased from 2016 to 2020. In 2016, less than 20% of teens reported suffering at least one concussion during their lifetime. By 2020, that number increased to nearly 25%.

When broken down by gender, roughly 27% of boys reported suffering a concussion in 2020, while 22% of girls said they had suffered at least one concussion.

In 2016, six percent of teens reported suffering two or more concussions. In 2020, seven percent of teens reported suffering two concussions or more. Brain damage may be suffered after only a single concussion, but is much more likely following a second impact to the head.

The data also indicates the prevalence of concussions is much higher among teens who participate in sports. About 27% of teens who participate in sports reported having a concussion compared to 13% of teens who do not.

Public awareness of concussions and their symptoms has increased in recent years as new studies shed light on the long-term consequences of suffering a blow to the head, including vision, balance and sleep problems.

Researchers speculate the reason for the increase, in part, may be due to a greater recognition of concussion symptoms and more awareness of concussions among educators, sports participants and the general public overall.

“Given greater effort to educate the US population regarding the risks associated with head injuries, more adolescents may be seeking care for these injuries, including care from health care professionals outside the emergency department who have appropriate diagnosis and management skills,” the researchers speculated.

However, there may also simply be an increase in the number of teens who are suffering head injuries overall. While increased awareness of concussion and concussion symptoms has increased, researchers believe this is the first study to track rates of concussions and their decline or increase.

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