Surprising leader in concussion spike of young people

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Emergency room visits for brain injuries from sports and recreational activities have dramatically increased among children and young adults over the past decade, according to the CDC.

In a national survey of 66 hospital emergency departments, the CDC found that bicycling was the leading cause of injuries that occurred during organized and unorganized sports and recreation activities, surpassing football, playground activities and basketball.

The number of visits to hospital emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries increased from 153, 375 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009.  The overall increase of hospital visits from 2001 to 2011 was 60 percent.  The highest rate of increase was among males 10 to 19 years old.

Gearhead Cycle House manager Jason Broadaway said he is not surprised that bike injuries topped the list. "I speak at my daughter's school every year, and every year I ask the kids, 'How many of guys ride bikes?' and virtually all of them raise their hands," he said.  "I ask them how many kids wear helmets when they ride and usually about four or five hands go up."

University of Arkansas assistant professor Dr. Shane Speights attributes the increase in hospital visits partly to media increasing awareness about traumatic brain injuries. "There's been a higher media hype surrounding traumatic brain injuries," he said.

Both men agree that many parents are still unaware of the potential dangers of riding bicycles without wearing safety equipment despite information being available. "They'll send their kid out on the street without a helmet on their bicycle and without thinking twice about it," Broadaway said. "It's not bad parenting necessarily, it's just a lack of information."

"It doesn't take much of a fall at all to fall off of the bicycle hit your head on the pavement, or on the concrete or on the curb," Dr. Speights said.  "That can cause significant, sometimes irreversible damage."

For bicycle safety tips, click here.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.