An estimated 135,000 (65 percent) of sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) treated in U.S. emergency departments occur each year in young people ages 5 to 18, according to a study published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Approximately 8 percent, or more than 10,000, of these young people were hospitalized, the study said.

Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, are caused by a blow or bump to the head that disrupts the way the brain normally works.

CDC researchers examined data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) from 2001 to 2005 and looked at both the overall number of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits and the activities with the greatest percentage of emergency department visits for that activity related to TBIs.

The study found that, when it came to 5 to 18 year olds, the sport and recreation activities that generated the greatest number of emergency department visits for treatment of traumatic brain injuries were popular activities such as bicycling, football, basketball, playground activities, and soccer. The study also found that some sport and recreation activities resulted in a higher percentage of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits. Among 5 to 18 year olds, horseback riding, ice skating, riding all-terrain vehicles, hockey and tobogganing/sledding were the sport and recreation activities with the highest percentage of visits for that activity related to TBIs.

Researchers say the emergency department visits represent only a small portion of all sports- and recreation-related TBIs; it is estimated that as many as 3.8 million of these injuries occur in the United States each year. Most may be considered mild; however, even relatively mild brain injuries can result in health consequences such as impaired thinking, memory problems, and emotional or behavioral changes.

"These injuries are very serious and should never be ignored," said CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury, or can take days or weeks to be noticed. Learn the signs and if you believe that you see any, see a health care provider right away."

Concussions and other brain injuries can occur in any sport. To help coaches, parents, and athletes learn the signs, symptoms, and action steps to take when a concussion is suspected, CDC has created and is making available a new tool kit: "Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports."

The tool kit is free and includes essential and easy-to-use information about recognizing and responding to a suspected concussion.

As part of this education effort, CDC encourages youth sports program administrators to order and distribute the tool kits to their coaches at the beginning of each sports season. The kit includes fact sheets for coaches, parents and athletes; a poster, clipboard, and magnet with concussion facts for coaches and administrators; and a quiz for coaches, parents and athletes to test their concussion knowledge.

"Playing a sport is a wonderful way for kids to have fun and be in shape," said CDC Injury Center director Dr. Ileana Arias. "But there are risks involved in sports and recreational activities -- especially when heads get bumped, players collide or get hit by balls, and people fall down. We need every coach, parent and athlete -- from soccer to baseball to tennis, and across all age groups -- to help us recognize and react when a player might have a concussion. The 'Heads Up' tool kit will help get the information to those who need it most."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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