According to a comprehensive study published in 2016 by Alan Zhang in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, from 2007 to 2014 concussion incidence rose by 60% across all age groups from with the highest spikes observed in children ages 10-14 (143% increase) and 15-19 (87% increase). While Zhang and many other researchers in the field are quick to acknowledge that some of this uptick is attributable to increased awareness and more diligent reporting of concussion-related incidents, they still believe these findings are a major cause for concern for youth athletes:
“This trend is alarming [however], and the youth population should definitely be prioritized for ongoing work in concussion diagnosis, education, treatment and prevention,” said Zhang upon the release of his findings.
And though many believe the risk is limited to football and hockey, recent studies confirm that the impact spreads far beyond the gridiron or ice rink. In fact, most young athletes – no matter the sport – are at risk of sustaining a concussion anytime they engage in sports activities, whether it is a casual practice or scrimmage, or a hyper-competitive championship game.
Many youth sports leagues are already doing their part by institutionalizing return-to-play protocol; however, as a parent, coach, physician or league/tournament administrator, it is critical to know and implement the proper concussion treatment and management procedures. As a baseline reference, the CDC offers excellent general concussion return-to-play guidelines (see image below):