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ED Visits for TBIs in Children From Contact Sports

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report, “Trends in Emergency Department Visits for Contact Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries Among Children – United States, 2001–2018,” that shows the rate of emergency department (ED) visits among children for contact sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBI) decreased 32 percent from 2012 to 2018. This decrease is notable after more than a decade of increasing rates. The CDC attributes this reduction due to a 39 percent decline in the rate of football-related TBI ED visits from 2013–2018 (which had previously increased more than 200 percent from 2001 to 2013. This decrease was likely due to a decrease in participation in tackle football, the implementation of contact limitations, and the use of tackling techniques to reduce concussions. Even with this reduction in TBIs, football remains the sport with the highest incidence of sports and recreation-related TBIs.

Some additional key findings noted in this report include:

  • Between 2001 and 2018, there were over 3.8 million ED visits for sports- and recreation-related TBIs among children under 18 years old. Contact sports accounted for approximately 41 percent of these ED visits.
  • Football had the highest rate of TBI ED visits in 2018 for contact sports, with basketball and soccer following. TBI ED visits from basketball and soccer did not show a significant decline over the study period.
  • The rate of contact sports-related TBIs declined among both sexes, with a 31 percent decrease among males from 2012 to 2018 and a 38 percent decrease among females from 2014 to 2018.
  • The rate of ED visits from TBIs in non-contact sports (for example, playground activities and bicycling) declined 24 percent from 2011 to 2018.

These findings highlight the continued need to expand efforts to prevent football-related TBIs among children and call attention to the need to identify effective prevention strategies for other contact sports.