Youth Sports Concussion Study Launched By U.S. Government

Amid increasing concerns about the risk of sports-related head injuries, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has launched an extensive study involving sports-related concussions among young players. 

According to a statement released on January 3, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is a division of the National Academies, will investigate sports-related concussions in youth from elementary school through early adulthood. The study, one of the most extensive of its kind ever done, will also include military personnel and their dependents.

The panel will also focus on risk factors, screening, diagnosis, treatment, long-term consequences, information on concussions and their relationships to hits to the head or body during sports, and the effectiveness of protective equipment in alleviating or protecting the body from injury.

In addition, researchers will examine studies conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Neurology. Sponsors of the study include the Department of Defense, the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.

The panel expects to submit the full report to the IOM by summer, with publication expected in late 2013.

Sports-related Brain Injury Controversy

The announcement of the study comes during an increased media focus on the effects of sports concussions and brain injuries, which have been linked to a number of high profile suicides among National Football League (NFL) players, such as Junior Seau, Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson.

Approximately 2,000 former NFL players are currently pursuing lawsuits against the NFL, alleging that the league concealed the risk of brain injury from players.

Recent research found a link between repeated head trauma suffered during contact sports and serious brain damage, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.). This condition may result in severe side effects such as cognitive impairment, depression, severe aggression and dementia.

Children Particularly Vulnerable, Studies Show

Other research involving concussions in children found the side effects of a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) can last for months. Scientists discovered the white matter in the brain of children who suffered from TBIs continued to change months after the concussion subsided, leaving children susceptible to brain injuries for much longer than adults.

Another study involving brain injury in children found a second brain injury before the first concussion has healed, can result in severe and long lasting side effects, including death. Younger players are more susceptible to this rare injury, known as second impact syndrome (SIS), which can be the result of even minor bumps or jolts of the head.

Nearly 200,000 sports related brain injuries among youth aged 19 years old and younger are treated at emergency rooms each year, says a CDC study. According to another CDC study, emergency room visits involving adolescents and brain related concussions and sports-related injuries rose 60 percent in the previous decade.

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