Officials Urge Concussion Education for Health Care Providers

Gina Kokosky, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Friday, July 13th, 2018

High school athletes are more likely to sustain a concussion than adult athletes, and they typically take longer to recover as well. This vulnerability creates an increased concern around head injuries for children and teenagers who are physically active.

Yet despite the known detrimental impacts that concussions have, particularly on young brains, rates of concussions are often underreported, according to a recently-published report from the CDC. Emergency department reports typically do not note concussions treated outside of hospitals, while high school athletic trainer reports leave out concussions sustained in out-of-school programs. Medically untreated concussions are also left out of the estimate. This underreporting recently prompted CDC researchers to analyze data from the 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to examine the prevalence of concussions in high school students. YRBS is a cross-sectional survey conducted every other year among students in grade 9-12 to produce representative data on a national scale. The 2017 survey had a school response rate of 75%, and a student response rate of 81%, with an overall response rate of 60% and total sample size of 14,765. This is the first time the YRBS has included a question regarding concussions, according to the study. 

The survey noted that 15.1% of students reported having a concussion as a result of physical activity in the last 12 months, while 6% reported having 2 or more concussions. Students who played on an organized sports team were more likely to sustain concussions, with male athletes more susceptible than female athletes. The likelihood of a student to seek medical treatment increased with the number of sports teams they were on, according to the study. 

The researchers noted that 9.1% students reported having 1 concussion, 3% of students reported having 2 concussions, 1% reported having 3 concussions, and 2% reported having 4 or more concussions, with a total of 15.1% of students experiencing a sports-related concussion. Students who reported playing at least on sport were more likely to sustain a concussion than those who were not on a team sport, and the likelihood of concussions increased with the number of sports a student participated in. 

The CDC notes that increasing awareness and education surrounding concussions will likely help address the issue of underreported concussions among young adults. 

CDC officials urged education for athletes, parents, coaches, and health care providers on the symptoms and risk associated with concussions, and the creation of standards to prevent concussions.

CDC officials are working toward creating a National Concussion Surveillance System to avoid the underestimation of concussions among students in the future. 



CDC. Self-reported concussions from playing a sport or being physically active among high school students –United States, 2017. CDC’s website. Accessed July 17, 2018.


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