For sports-minded adults or kids with a penchant for getting on the field, it may seem like that first head injury is a rite of passage. A concussion is a story for the ages, a battle wound, a show of strength. Research shows, however, that if a teen or child experiences just one traumatic brain injury, their health could suffer long-lasting consequences.
The Prevalence of Head Injuries in Young People
Health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield recently released a report noting that diagnosed concussions climbed 71 percent in people under the age of 20 between the years of 2010 and 2015. Perhaps most surprisingly, the rate rose the most among girls, with incidents going up 119 percent. Nevertheless, boys suffered almost twice as many concussions overall.
Greater awareness of concussions and their symptoms may be part of the reason why more head injuries have been reported and diagnosed. This is a good thing. Coaches, parents, sports officials, and medical professionals all have a greater likelihood of recognizing a traumatic brain injury with a greater emphasis on training. Even taking this awareness into consideration and the higher rate of reported concussions, the report also indicates that more young people are experiencing head injuries than ever before. Global reports have also pointed to similar increases in head injuries in nations beyond the United States.
How a Head Injury Suffered as a Youth Impacts Adulthood
Mental health, intellect, and physical functioning can all be impacted by a head injury. And the aftermath of a head injury is not always temporary. If the traumatic brain injury is bad enough, the results can be life-altering, changing the course of a child’s, teen’s, or adult’s life, and those of the people who love them.
If the first head injury is improperly diagnosed or treated, multiple head injuries compound the likelihood of greater problems later in life, according to a new study funded by Wellcome Trust and carried out by scientists from Indiana University, Oxford University, the Karolinska Institute of Stockhold, and other universities using data about residents of Sweden.
The shocking and scary results:
- Young people who experienced a single diagnosed concussions were more likely than the nation’s general population to receive medical disability payments as adults.
- Those with a brain injury were more likely to have sought out mental health care than their uninjured siblings.
- TBI sufferers were less likely to have graduated from high school or attended college than their uninjured siblings.
- Someone with a brain injury was twice as likely to die prematurely than an uninjured sibling.
- If more than one concussion was suffered in youth, the likelihood of lingering physical or psychological rose tremendously.
While parents may be reluctant to forbid their child to pursue sports – as the benefits clearly are many – the risk of a traumatic brain injury is always present. Prevention is key – touch football, proper equipment, and especially proper diagnosis, monitoring, and recovery time for those who are injured.
David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. If you have suffered a head injury, contact Christensen Law to schedule a free consultation.