MONDAY, Sept 13 (HealthDay News) -- Children's basketball may be getting rougher or the kids may be bigger, but either way the number of head injuries is soaring, researchers report.
"Although the total number of injuries decreased during the study period, the number of traumatic brain injuries increased by 70 percent," said study author Lara McKenzie, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"These injuries are exceedingly high in this popular sport," she added. "This is cause for alarm."
McKenzie thinks the increased size of players is one factor in the increase in concussions. Another is that the game has become more competitive, she said.
Why total injuries have gone down by 20 percent over the 11 years covered by the study is not clear, McKenzie added.
"We don't want to discourage kids from physical activity. We don't want to discourage kids from playing basketball, either," she said. "But we need to recognize that there are some inherent risks in any activity."
McKenzie added that the problem of traumatic brain injury needs to be addressed. "Maybe we need to do more education of coaches, athletes and parents to recognize the signs of concussion and help to prevent them," she said
The findings are published in the Sept. 13 online edition of the journal Pediatrics.
For the study, McKenzie's team used data from 1997 to 2007 from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to estimate the number of children injured while playing basketball. Over the study period, the researchers found an estimated 4,128,852 children were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained while playing the sport. That's 375,350 every year.
While the total number of injuries went down over the study period, traumatic brain injuries increased 70
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