A new study from Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies’ national medical claims data says concussion diagnoses are on the significant rise.
More specifically, concussion diagnoses spiked 71 percent for patients ages 10 through 19 during the six-year study period, which concluded at the end of 2015. Across the same period, concussion diagnoses for adults ages 20 through 64 increased 26 percent.
The rise in concussion diagnosis varies from state to state, with some states showing the highest rates of teen diagnoses among those that have the most widespread insurance coverage. Among those states are Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, which had the highest rates of concussion diagnoses among those age 10-19; Connecticut saw a 50 percent increase in that age group between 2010-2015 while Pennsylvania’s diagnoses rose by 87 percent and Massachusetts’ rose by 82 percent.
“The study shows that there is more awareness about the seriousness of concussions and that younger individuals are receiving more care for these injuries than in the past,” Dr. Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in a Blue Cross Blue Shield release. “But despite greater awareness and new protocols aimed at protecting young athletes, there is still wide variability in the rate of concussions diagnosed from state to state.”
As one might expect, it is incredibly difficult to determine the true reasons behind the rise in concussion diagnoses. Increased awareness is a significant factor, though it is also likely that increased numbers of on-site certified athletic trainers contributed to the increased diagnoses as well.
Among a number of other key findings from the survey is that the percentage of concussion patients across all ages diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015, while the growth of diagnosis rates for young females increased an astronomical 118 percent. That is compared with a 48 percent rise in concussion diagnoses for young men in the same groups.
Additional, the study found that the percentage of diagnosed concussions were split almost exactly down the middle between men and women.
While the true impact showcased by the study can continue to be debated, there is no question that all are well-served by the additional medical scrutiny being shown to young American athletes.
“The BCBS study demonstrates the importance of getting evaluated by a qualified professional who can accurately diagnose concussions and determine when it is safe for kids to return to play,” Dr. Frederick A. Boop, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Memphis, Tenn., and current president of the AANS said in the Blue Cross Blue Shield release announcing the study’s findings.