Parental Report of Significant Head Injuries in Children Aged 3–17 Years: United States, 2016

Questions for Lindsey Black, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Parental Report of Significant Head Injuries in Children Aged 3–17 Years: United States, 2016.”

Q: What was the reason you undertook this research?

LB: Previous research has indicated that the incidence is increasing and much of this trend is being driven by an increase among adolescents. Current incidence of concussions among children is estimated to be 3.5-16.5/1,000. Despite what is known, studies conducted thus far regarding the epidemiology of childhood concussions have either been regional and limited in size, focused on injuries related to sports, dependent on insurance claims, or based on emergency department visits.

There is a lack of a national prevalence and we need to understand the problem outside of the scope of sports injuries. Depending on ED visits are also problematic because evidence is emerging that there is an increasing trend in the use of primary care physicians and specialty clinics as the point of entry into the healthcare system for concussion diagnosis and treatment. Also relying on ED or medical claims will not include non-medically attended concussions.

Further, much research focuses on high school and collegiate athletes and therefore there is not much data on younger children. Despite this, there has been recent recognition for concern and appropriate treatment by the medical community. The goal of this study was to provide a national estimate of parent-reported significant head injuries as well as examine disparities by various demographics and socioeconomic indicators.


Q: What did you find most significant?

LB: There was a steady increase in the percentage of children that had ever had a significant head injury by age group. Although overall boys were more likely than boys to have ever had a significant head injury, the difference was only significant for the 15-17 age group.


Q: Are there any data that look at what sports might be contributing to the number of significant head injuries among children?

LB: Yes, in fact there are many studies that focus on sport related injuries. Our survey and study did not. What sets our study apart is that it was not limited to sports related injuries, so it is going to include a wider range of causes of injuries. Please see “Emergency Department Visits for Concussion in Young Child Athletes” (Bakhos, 2010) and “Epidemiology of Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” (Laker 2011) to learn more.


Q: Do you have any insight about whether this percentage who’ve had significant head injuries has increased or declined over time?

LB: Unfortunately we do not have any other historical data on this topic from our survey. At this time, these questions were asked only in 2016 as part of content sponsored by the National Instutite of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


Q: Any other points you’d like to make about this study?

LB: We found that about 1 in 10 children in the oldest age group 15-17 had ever had a significant head injury. We also found that overall, boys were more likely than girls to have ever had a significant head injury and there were also disparities by race and parental educational attainment.

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