6.2 million U.S. children suffered traumatic brain injury from sports equipment from 2000 to 2019, with higher increase among girls, study finds



Traumatic brain injuries related to consumer products — primarily sports equipment — accounted for 12.3% of all reported consumer product-related children’s ER visits in the United States in 2019, a dramatic increase from 4.5 % in 2000, according to a study published Thursday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with declining incidence rates in boys since 2012, but not in girls.


The number of traumatic brain injuries caused by consumer products in children aged 5 to 18 treated in emergency departments increased by 3.6% from 2000 to 2008, followed by a jump of 13.3% from 2008 to 2012 and a decrease of 2% from 2012 to 2019.

While boys had the highest incidence rate of equipment-related TBIs treated in 2019–681 per 100,000 versus 376 per 100,000 for girls, girls experienced a higher average annual increase in cases over the study period (5.1% versus 2.8% in boys), and cases have decreased by 2.7% in boys since 2012, while in girls they have further increased by 0.7% since 2011.

Between 2000 and 2019, about 27% of consumer product-related head injuries resulting in emergency room visits by children aged 5 to 18 occurred in sports and recreation areas, followed at home (24% ), at school (19.9%) and streets and highways (4.5%), according to the study.

Overall, football was the most common activity in which consumer product-related brain injury leading to emergency room visits occurred, with 734,967 reported cases, followed by cycling (469,285 ) and basketball (396,613), according to the researchers.

Boys aged 11 to 13 had the highest incidence rate (734 cases per 100,000 people), followed by boys aged 14 to 18 (699.5), boys aged 5 to 10 (637.9 ), girls aged 14 to 18 (433.2) and girls. aged 5 to 10 (341.1), according to the study, which relied on data on concussions, skull fractures, hematomas and other head injuries from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – a primary head injury in contact sports – is known to cause memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia, and occasionally dysfunction motors such as Parkinson’s disease, ataxia and dysarthria, according to the National Institutes of Health. National Library of Medicine.

Tuan D. Le, the study’s lead researcher, said efforts to reduce brain damage in children’s sports programs have been effective, but more needs to be done, especially for girls.

Key Context

Traumatic brain injury was recognized as a public health problem in the 1990s, when scientists studying the effect of repeated blows to the head found an alarming correlation with boxers, calling their symptoms “drunken punch”. In 1996, Congress passed the TBI Act, which authorized the federal government to fund public and private programs aimed at mitigating brain injuries. The company has since branched out into a variety of contact sports, notoriously football. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 13.5 million people, including 837,000 children, in the United States lived with disabilities caused by brain damage. Brain damage in children can cause emotional, physiological and cognitive damage.

crucial quote

“Since childhood inactivity is also a serious concern, we are faced with a difficult balancing act: how to develop an awareness of how to avoid high-risk activities without discouraging children from participating in healthy exercise. and fun?” Says so in the study.


The biggest increase in reported head injuries occurred from 2008 to 2012, when CTE and other head injuries came into the spotlight, and schools and athletic departments started doing more to screen for them, an indication to the researchers that the incidents may have been underestimated in the early years of the study.


Boston University doctors announced earlier this month that Demaryius Thomas, Super Bowl-winning wide receiver for the Denver Broncos, was posthumously diagnosed with stage 2 CTE, six months after his death. His death is on a long list of head injuries in the National Football League, following sustained one-on-one collisions. A 2017 JAMA study of 111 deceased NFL players found CTE in all but one, with the majority of cases on the offensive and defensive lines.

What we don’t know

A JAMA Pediatrics report released on Monday found that children’s physical activity decreased by 20% and high-intensity activity fell by 38%, worldwide, from January 1, 2020 to January 1, 2022, when youth sports were largely suspended following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Youth sports have since rebounded, leaving a rough two-year asterisk on head injury data.

Further reading

What you need to know about traumatic brain injury (Forbes)

Fly research gives hope for brain repair (Forbes)

CTE study sends shockwaves through world of football (Forbes)


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