Study: More teen concussions leading to more awareness

A nationwide report says concussion diagnoses have spiked among teens in just five years. However, that may actually be a good sign.

Obviously, we talk about concussions much more now than in the past. It's a growing concern for parents who have kids who play sports.

A new, national study from Blue Cross and Blue Shield shows more awareness is helping.

Kennedy Dierk played soccer for ten years before her first concussion.

"She went up to head the ball with another player from the other team, and they bumped heads," Kennedy's mother Dione Dierk said.

It's a common occurrence.

According to the new report, doctors diagnosed 71-percent more concussions in the past five years among 10- to 19-year-olds. And among girls, the rate went up 118-percent.

Dr. Don Liss, the Medical Director for Independence Blue Cross, says those scary-sounding numbers actually mark progress. It's a major shift from the old "shake it off and get back in the game" philosophy.

"Parents, coaches, and medical professionals are much more willing to say that an injury is a concussion, and to treat it seriously," Liss said.

Previously, many head injuries were likely missed.

And that can lead to post-concussion syndrome - a more serious condition with memory loss, thinking problems, and headaches.

"I think it was a good two to three months before the headache dissipated," Dione Dierk said.

Dr. Liss says new laws requiring medical clearance before kids can go back to sports have helped.

And so has training for coaches, athletic trainers, and family doctors.

Although some parents now keep their kids out of sports, Dr. Liss says they shouldn't avoid all activity out of fear of getting hurt.

"One should just take prudent measures, and be careful, and use common sense in protecting our kids, and encouraging them to be physically active," Liss said.

That means proper technique should be followed, safety equipment used, and rest when needed.

Right now, in the fall, this is the peak season for concussions for teenage boys.

For girls, it's fairly steady throughout the year.

The study also showed lingering effects of a concussion were more common among young, adult women.

Doctors aren't sure why.
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