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Episode 69: The Prevalence of Brain Injury In The United States

Evidence continues to accumulate that the frequency of concussions sustained by adults in the United States is vastly underestimated.

In the most recent study conducted by Centers for Disease Control researchers, 27 percent of adults reported having a concussion in their lifetime, but only half were evaluated for their last concussion by a health care provider. 

This study can be found in the most recent issue of the Journal of Head Trauma, September 2022 and is entitled, Concussion Evaluation Patterns Among US Adults.  [Vol 37-Issue No. 5 p. 303-310]

The true incidence and prevalence of concussions remains unknown since many individuals who have sustained a concussion may receive no medical evaluation.

Why is this important?  Because examination by a health care professional may prevent or mitigate long term consequences including the post concussive syndrome.  

Examination and reporting will also provide public health officials a better understanding of the prevalence of concussions within the population and the burden this injury has upon the individual and society.

Failing to obtain a diagnosis and treatment after a suspected concussion can prolong recovery and place an individual at increased risk of a subsequent concussion before the first one resolves. 

The researchers found that the highest rate of unreported concussions was in individuals who sustained slips, trips, or falls followed by injuries that took place among bicyclists and then being struck by or against an object.

A misunderstanding of concussion symptoms, researchers believe leads to the mistaken conclusion by individuals that their concussion was not serious or a lack of understanding they even sustained a concussion. 

Remember, a concussion is a brain injury.

Current data on concussion prevalence is solely based upon emergency department visits and hospitalizations.   This study adds further evidence to the limitations in data collection and the vast underreporting of concussions in the United States. 

Concussions and brain injury in all aspects of society including sports, the military, domestic violence, the prison and homeless populations, and the elderly re-affirm the fact that brain injury has reached epidemic levels and is a public health crisis.

More focus needs to be placed on information and programs to encourage individuals who have sustained a concussion to obtain a medical evaluation.  Efforts also need to be made to improve access to care.

Audio version

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Audio version

Subscribe to the Brain Injury Insider Podcast here.