Concussion Diagnoses Rise with Awareness and “Return to Play” Laws

Brain Injury
Concussion Diagnoses

By Sandra Dalton, Staff Writer

A recent study found that concussion diagnoses rose significantly between 2010 and 2015. That does not necessarily mean that the actual number of concussions rose during that period of time. It is more likely that more people with concussions are seeking medical evaluation. The study authors believe that new laws, designed to protect young athletes, have driven the increase in diagnoses, and the timing certainly fits. The numbers sound scary, but may actually be a good sign. Hopefully the new laws and a greater awareness among the general public will ultimately lead to a decrease in concussions, especially repeat concussions. Until then, the fact that more traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims know that they are injured, and have the opportunity to get the proper treatment, is an improvement.

The Concussion Study

The study looked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies’ national medical claims data from 2010 through 2015. Some highlights from the results include:

  • 43% increase in concussion diagnoses in the U.S. during the study period
  • 71% increase in patients 10 through 19 years of age
  • 26% increase in patients aged 20 through 64
  • Concussion diagnoses in patients 10 through 19 peak in the fall
  • Also during the fall, concussion diagnoses in young males are nearly double that of young females

The percentage of concussion victims who were diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome (PCS) also rose. In fact, it nearly doubled. In young people, males and females were equally likely to be diagnosed with PCS after suffering a concussion. In the 20 to 64 age range, however, women were 60% more likely than men to be diagnosed with PCS.

What Changed?

In 2009, the Zachery Lystedt Law was enacted in Washington State. By the beginning of 2014, all 50 states had adopted “return-to-play” laws to protect youth athletes. The laws are different in each state, but the basic concept is the same. Kids are no longer allowed to “shake it off” and return to play after a head injury when playing school sports. If they show signs of a concussion they must receive medical clearance before they can return to play.

The goal of return-to-play laws is to prevent second impact syndrome (SIS). SIS is often fatal and those who survive can be permanently disabled. SIS occurs when someone who is still healing from a concussion suffers a second concussion. The second impact can be relatively minor.

Another change that may have encouraged more people to get checked out after a suspected concussion is awareness of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football players.

If you or someone you love has been harmed as a result of being allowed to return to play too soon after a sports injury, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a lawyer near you.

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