Children Exposed to Unnecessary Radiation Following Suspected Sports-related Injuries


According to a new study from Utah, children with supposed sports-related head injuries discovered that emergency room visits have significantly increased since the state passed a concussion law back in 2011. Additionally an increase in CT scans, which can lead to possible unnecessary radiation exposure has also been noted.

The results were made known at the Pediatric Academic Societies conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in May by William McDonnell, M.D., J.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah.

The study, conducted and completed by McDonnell and other University of Utah faculty, studied Intermountain Healthcare's emergency department database for 19 hospitals in Utah between September 1, 2009 and September 1, 2012. Researchers were curious to know if the number of children and teenagers with suspected sports-related head injuries between the ages of 6 and 18 who came to hospital emergency departments saw any changes and if the number of CT scans significantly increased, and what those scans revealed.

In accordance with 48 other states, Utah approved on a concussion and youth sports law designed to protect children. Utah's law states that a child or teenager suspected to have a concussion or traumatic head injury must be removed from play, assessed by a qualified medical professional, and cleared before he or she can return to play.

"It sounds so reasonable to everyone. And we all want to treat children's injuries, and prevent them whenever possible. For that reason these kinds of laws have flown through state legislatures," said McDonnell.child sport injury

Comparing ER visits prior to and following the law, the researchers discovered that the number of children coming in for a suspected sports-related head injury increased by 43 percent in one year following the approval of the new law. The total number of CT scans on these children also increased by 17 percent.

Of the scans completed on 61 additional children in the year after the law was passed, 54 were negative, meaning the child's head was not gravely injured. Yet on another note, a few more serious head injuries were caught. The study is ongoing as of today.

"What I don't want this study to come across as is saying concussions don't matter. They definitely do, but the important thing is to treat them medically correctly," said McDonnell.

The researchers are not quite yet prepared to say whether Utah should over rule its law. However, they trust that legislators and state health policy makers need to consider the effects of the law.

"We think people need to recognize there are costs and benefits," he said.