New laws may impact how people view concussions

January 15, 2015

Topic: concussions

Laws were recently implemented regulating how concussions are treated in healthcare. As a result, people may be viewing the injury a little more closely than before.

Federal laws were recently implemented regulating how concussions are treated in health care. As a result, people may be viewing the injury a little more closely than before.

Beginning in 2009, states began to enforce laws and raise awareness surrounding concussions. Since then, more patients have sought help for their injuries instead of disregarding them. This is good news, as the number of concussions in the U.S. is on the rise. 

A rise in medical assistance
Researchers from the University of Michigan studied insurance data across the country. The numbers came from patients between the ages of 12 and 18.  They looked at the data and compared it with the implementation of concussion laws between 2006 and 2012, including states without legislation.

The researchers found that because of the new laws, approximately 92 percent of people sought out medical help for their concussions. Even states without newly implemented laws still had significant increases in the amount of patients who chose to seek medical attention.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that as traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions, have been on the rise, emergency visits have too, spiking between 2008 and 2010. However, if the concussion is not severe, an emergency visit may be a waste of money.

Each year, traumatic brain injuries cost the nation an estimated $17 billion in health care costs, recovery and lost productivity, Health Impacts for Florida noted. The medical costs mainly come from being transported to the emergency room, conducting magnetic resonance imaging scans and performing in-person tests. Visiting a primary care physician, who are prepped in concussion education, may be the smarter move. These costs tend to be less, as several tests are not conducted unless necessary. It also can help separate those with severe concussions, who may need more in-depth medical treatment, from milder cases.

The study authors from UM noted that this legislation is clearly correlated to an improvement in taking concussions seriously. They also stated that though some may doubt it, raising awareness about the condition helped spread the word on the dangers of concussions and caused people to have more consideration toward the injury.

Working as needed
The study authors noted they initially thought that rates of medical assistance would only increase in states where concussion laws were put into place. They noted that though medical assistance increased, it may not have been within hospitals, but rather doctors' offices. The researchers believe this may have been the laws' intentions.

Concussions can be incredibly dangerous, as their symptoms can be misleading, and athletes could continually play, making their condition much worse. Concussions also vary in severity, which is why all patients are recommended to rest and avoid strenuous activity.

The researchers encourage continual education on concussions from parents, coaches and even physical education teachers. Advising students and athletes on the dangers of concussions and explaining common warning signs can help keep people healthy and prepared.

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