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Emergency Room Visits for Youth Concussions Double

The number of youth concussions diagnosed in emergency rooms has more than doubled over the past 10 years, according to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Boston this past weekend.

The study, conducted by researchers at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., was based on 10 years of data from 14 children's hospitals found in the Pediatric Health Information System, a national database of 42 pediatric hospitals.

The researchers discovered that the number of children being diagnosed with concussions during emergency-room visits jumped from 2,126 in 2001 to 4,967 in 2010, an increase of roughly 58 percent. (These figures include all children, not just student-athletes.)

There was a silver lining, however. The percentage of patients admitted to a hospital after receiving their concussion diagnosis dropped from 24.7 percent in 2001 (525 children in total) to 11.2 percent in 2010 (555 children).

In other words: The number of children being diagnosed with concussions in the E.R. may have doubled, but relatively the same number were admitted to a hospital in 2001 and 2010 as a result of concussions.

Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, the study's lead author, believes the increase in concussion diagnoses may actually be a good thing.

"In our view, the higher rate of concussion diagnoses is a good sign that public education efforts have been working," Colvin said in a statement. "More patients are finally seeking care from health-care professionals for concussions, which can be even more serious when not properly diagnosed and treated."

U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, on an annual basis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A CDC report released last October found E.R. visits for sports-related TBIs in youths rose by nearly 100,000 from 2001 to 2009.

Kentucky Makes 37: On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed HB 281, a youth-concussion law, making Kentucky the 37th state (along with the District of Columbia) to enact one.

Kentucky's follows the model laid out by Washington state's Lystedt Law: Parents must sign a concussion-information form before their child can participate on a school sports team, student-athletes suspected of a concussion must be immediately removed from play, and those student-athletes removed can't return to play until obtaining clearance from a medical professional.

The law goes further by requiring all interscholastic coaches to complete annual training on concussion recognition. Roughly half the states with youth-concussion laws require coaches to undergo some type of formal training. Kentucky's law also requires each school participating in interscholastic athletics to develop a venue-specific emergency-response plan, a move endorsed last fall by the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

Our youth-concussion-law map has been updated to reflect Kentucky's new status. Only 13 states to go until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gets his wish of having every state enact a youth-concussion law.

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