Study: Concussion estimates overlook younger children, doctors offices

WASHINGTON — The number of children in the United States who suffer concussions could be far higher than previously estimated.

That is the finding of a new study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Current estimates on the number of pediatric concussions in this country are based on reports from emergency rooms and data provided by official high school and college sports programs.

But the Philadelphia researchers found that most child concussions are actually diagnosed and at least originally treated by a patient’s primary care provider and that many of these children are in elementary and middle school, not high school.

Researchers looked at electronic medical records for 8,000 children who were diagnosed with a concussion by a doctor in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia regional health care system. The overwhelming majority of the visits — a whopping 82 percent — were to a pediatrician or family doctor. Just 12 percent of the patients went to the emergency room, 5 percent saw a specialist and only 1 percent were hospitalized.

Another finding that jumped out to the researchers was that one-third of the injured children were under the age of 12 and were totally missed by existing concussion surveillance systems that focus on high school athletes.

Their study appears in the May 31 edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

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