Concussion Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

They are common and they usually don't cause lasting problems

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions are common, and they can affect people of all ages. Most concussions are mild, and the effects usually resolve within a few days, without lasting consequences. A severe concussion can cause impaired consciousness for several hours or longer and may cause lasting effects.

About 3 to 18 out of 100 children and adolescents will experience a concussion. Estimates of the incidence and prevalence of concussions are not precise because many people do not seek medical attention for the condition.

This article will discuss facts about concussions and who is more at risk.

Child being examined for concussion in emergency room

SDI Productions / Getty Images

Concussion Overview

A concussion is a temporary change in brain function due to a head injury. It often causes loss of consciousness for a few seconds or impaired memory of the event.

The symptoms can vary and may include:

  • Head pain 
  • Fatigue 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Dizziness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability 
  • Mood changes 
  • Personality changes 
  • Generalized aches and pains 
  • Decreased appetite 

Some people develop a condition called post-concussive syndrome, which is a prolonged persistence of symptoms after a concussion.

Repeated concussions may cause a serious neurological condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can cause persistent pain, mood and personality changes, as well as difficulty functioning in daily life.

How Common Is Concussion? 

National surveys estimate that approximately 3 to 18 out of 100 children or adolescents in the general population will have a concussion at some time during their childhoods.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 223,135 hospitalizations related to traumatic brain injuries in 2019 out of a U.S. population of approximately 330 million people.

Safety Measures

Some safety measures can help reduce the incidence of concussions and concussion-related problems. These include wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet during certain sports, and getting medical attention after a head injury.

Concussion by Ethnicity

Concussions can affect anyone of any ethnicity. Accurate and timely diagnosis and care can have a beneficial impact on recovery.

There is some evidence that there are disparities among populations in concussion recognition, which can cause false positives (people identified as having a concussion when they don't) or delays in proper concussion care.

Concussion by Age and Gender 

According to the CDC, people age 75 years and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths. This age group accounts for about 32% of TBI-related hospitalizations and 28% of TBI-related deaths.

The effects of a concussion last longer and are more severe for people who have had a history of brain damage, such as a history of a stroke (a blockage of blood flow or bleeding in the brain) or a previous concussion. Concussions are more common with advancing age. 

National surveys vary in their estimate of the occurrence of concussion among children and adolescents:

  • One survey of people age 3 to 17 reports that approximately 3 to 7 out of 100 children have had a concussion.
  • Another survey of people age 13 to 17 reports that approximately 6 to 18 out of 100 adolescents have had a concussion.

Adult men are more likely to be seen for medical care due to a concussion. Adult women are more likely to report concussion symptoms.

Causes of Concussion and Risk Factors

Head trauma is the cause of a concussion. A TBI can cause a concussion with or without an identifiable structural injury. Concussion is believed to occur due to changes in the chemical activity in the brain that result from trauma. These changes can affect different regions throughout the brain. 

Risk factors for concussion include:

  • Falling 
  • Motor vehicle accidents 
  • Sports-related head trauma 
  • Violence-induced injuries 

Some of these risk factors lead to repeated concussions. For example, a fall that leads to a concussion can make a person feel dizzy for months or longer—which increases the risk of another fall. Some sports can cause frequent concussions, each adding more to the risk of extensive and lasting brain damage. 

What Are the Mortality Rates for Concussion? 

It is difficult to estimate the chance of dying from a concussion because there are other factors involved in survival after a TBI. for instance, many people who have a severe concussion also have other injuries to the brain or other issues such as blood loss, fractures, and organ damage that can decrease the chances of survival.

Post-concussive symptoms or effects of CTE can lead to death as a result of problems indirectly caused by the head injury—such as a drug overdose.

Based on CDC data, there were 64,362 traumatic brain injury-related deaths in the United States in 2020.

Screening and Early Detection 

There are many tests that screen for concussion. These tests can measure skills such as reaction time. The scores can be compared to standardized scores.

Some sports programs require baseline concussion testing before the season starts. This is a test that a player takes when they are considered to be at their best, which is noted as their baseline score. These types of tests measure whether a player has had a change in their own score after a concussion. 

Some of the commonly used concussion tests include:

  • King-Devick concussion test
  • Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC)
  • Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS)
  • Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT)
  • Buffalo Concussion Physical Examination (BCPE)

Summary

A concussion is a change in brain function due to head trauma. Concussions may cause a brief loss of consciousness or diminished memory of the event, and they can range from mild to severe. Most of the time, people recover after a concussion, without lasting effects.

Concussions are more common with advancing age, and the population with the greatest prevalence is people over age 75. Recurrent concussions or underlying brain conditions are a risk for persistent or severe neurological and psychological changes after a concussion.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a concussion fatal?

    Usually, a concussion isn’t fatal, but sometimes the effects of a concussion can lead to mental or physical repercussions. In severe cases, the effects of a concussion can be life-threatening.

  • Do I need to get medical attention for a concussion?

    Yes, you do need to get medical attention if there’s any chance that you may have had a concussion. Head trauma can cause a skull fracture, a hematoma (pooling of blood in the brain), or other injuries that require medical or surgical intervention.

    After a concussion, you may have certain limitations that you need to follow so you can heal.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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