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Concussion Diagnoses Among Youths Nearly Doubled from 2010 to 2015

Concussion diagnoses increased by 71 percent from 2010 through 2015 among children between the ages of 10 and 19, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report based on medical-claims data.

Over that six-year span, nearly 940,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield members of all ages were diagnosed with concussions, the report found, with the steepest increase in diagnoses coming among those between 10 and 19 years old. In 2009, 8.9 children in that age range were diagnosed with concussions per 1,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield members; by 2015, that number had jumped up to 15.2. The greatest increase came between 2010 and 2013, which happens to coincide with when a number of states were passing youth-concussion legislation for the first time.

BCBS-HealthOfAmericaReport-Concussions.raster.03.gifChildren in that age range were over five times as likely to be diagnosed with a concussion than those in all other age groups combined, the report found. Additionally, concussion diagnoses skyrocketed in the fall, when contact sports such as football and soccer are often in sessions. Males between the ages of 10 and 19 were diagnosed with concussions at a rate of 7.0 per 1,000 members, while 3.7 females in that age group were diagnosed per 1,000 members. In comparison, males between the ages of 20 and 64 were diagnosed with 0.58 concussions per 1,000 members, and females in that age range were diagnosed with 0.57 per 1,000.

Young males outpaced young females in terms of overall concussion diagnoses, going from 11.5 in 2010 to 17.0 in 2015, while females went from 6.1 to 13.3 over that same six-year span. The increase for concussion diagnoses among girls was far more drastic (118 percent) than for boys (48 percent), however.

BCBS-HealthOfAmericaReport-Concussions.raster.05.jpgPost-concussion syndrome diagnoses also rose over the report's six-year span. In 2010, 8.0 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds who suffered concussions were later diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome; in 2015, 12.4 percent were. Post-concussion syndrome was diagnosed equally between males and females in that age group, although females far outpaced males in the 20-64 age range. 

"The study shows that there is more awareness about the seriousness of concussions and that younger individuals are receiving more care for these injuries than in the past," said Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBS, in a statement. "But despite greater awareness and new protocols aimed at protecting young athletes, there is still wide variability in the rate of concussions diagnosed from state to state."

To Haywood's point, Blue Cross Blue Shield tracked concussion diagnoses on a state-by-state basis and found higher rates of diagnoses among 10- to 19-year-olds in the Northeast compared to anywhere else. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts had the most concussion diagnoses for children in that age group, according to the report.


The report authors conclude that increased awareness and the swath of state concussion laws that passed in recent years helped contribute to the growing rate of concussion diagnoses. In other words, the rate of concussions may not be rising this rapidly; many could have simply gone undiagnosed prior to 2010. Based on the state-by-state variation in diagnoses, the report authors called for "more study on the differences in state regulations, their implantation, participation rates in contact sports, and local health care utilization patterns." 

All images courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

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