Medical centers around the United States are increasing their efforts to curb the rising number of concussions in children and teenagers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since these age groups are at a higher risk for long-term effects as a result of brain injury, doctors and researchers are trying to obtain a better understanding of concussions and to identifypatients that are more genetically predisposed to sustaining a concussion. Medical centers hope this knowledge will allow them to provide improved concussion care for at-risk individuals.
Concussions have become increasingly common, especially due to hard hits during contact sports such as football. But even people who don’t play contact sports are at risk for concussion if there is a sudden movement or direct force to the head that sets brain tissue in motion within the skull. Sports-related concussions are estimated to be about 3.8 million a year, and according to the Center for Disease Control, recreation-related brain injuries rose by 60% over the last decade.
Michael Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of medicine, explains that while many people can get over concussions by themselves, there’s a group of patients that won’t do so well and need to be watched more carefully after a concussion. Using a special MRI technique, Dr. Lipton has helped identify a biomarker in the brain that may predict long-term prognosis after a concussion.
Although many states require students who experience a concussion to be kept from sports until cleared by a medical professional, students often don’t report symptoms out of fear that they’ll be excluded from playing. A new study reveals that 32% of high school football players said they had suffered from concussion-like symptoms but did not seek any medical attention. While high school athletes are becoming increasingly aware of the long-term consequences of concussions, only 38% reported a concern about the future effects on their brain health.
Researchers are still conducting studies to better understand what kinds of impacts cause concussions and what it is about a particular impact that gives one person a concussion while another is fine. Chief of general pediatrics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Keith Loud, explains that the goal of their concussion program is not to remove children from athletics: “If we manage concussions wisely and safely and make sure patients have all their faculties, we shouldn’t have to keep kids from sports.”