Excellus BCBS reports that concussion diagnoses spiked in New York state from 2010 through 2015

leva doyle
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Data show concussion diagnoses rising fastest among members ages 10 through 19; results demonstrate more awareness, changing attitudes about head injuries

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Concussion diagnoses among New York state’s youth have risen steeply, with media attention on football-related concussions and state legislation aimed at preventing sport participants from “shaking off” signs of head injuries, according to a new study Excellus BlueCross BlueShield spotlighted today.

The report by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in Chicago, “The Steep Rise in Concussion Diagnoses in the U.S.,” represents a comprehensive study of medical claims for 936,630 diagnosed concussions suffered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield commercially insured members throughout the country from 2010 through 2015. Concussion diagnoses among adults rose significantly over the past six years, but the most significant numbers and rate of change apply to young people.

In New York state, concussion diagnoses for members ages 10 through 19 increased 72 percent, from a rate of 10.7 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 18.5 per 1,000 members in 2015. This is similar to the national rate of concussion diagnoses for members ages 10 through 19, which spiked 71 percent, from a rate of 8.9 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 15.2 per 1,000 members in 2015.  

Concussion diagnoses in New York state for all members age 64 and younger increased 42 percent, from 3.3 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 4.6 per 1,000 members in 2015. Concussion diagnoses for all members age 64 and younger increased 43 percent nationally, from a rate of 3.0 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 4.3 per 1,000 members in 2015. More detailed data pertaining to upstate New York were not available and would be less statistically significant than the larger statewide data.

The study also finds that nationally:

Fall is the peak concussion season for young people ages 10 through 19, with the most dramatic increases seen among males. Concussion diagnoses for young males in the fall are nearly double that of young females.

The growth of diagnosis rates for young females increased 118 percent, compared to an increase for young males of 48 percent during the study period. Young males are still diagnosed with 49 percent more concussions than young females.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield data in 2015 shows that patients ages 10 through 19 in some states have nearly a three times higher rate of concussions diagnosed than in other states. The Northeast experienced higher rates of concussion diagnoses than other regions overall.

The percentage of concussion patients across all ages diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015 nationally. Throughout the study, post-concussion syndrome was diagnosed equally for males and females ages 10 through 19. Females ages 20 through 64, however, are nearly 60 percent more likely to receive such a diagnosis than males.

“What the national study illustrates is a heightened awareness of concussion as a real and potentially serious injury,” said Nicholas Massa, M.D., medical director, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, “and it stresses the need for prompt recognition of the injury, appropriate management and safe return to activities.”

New York is among the states that have enacted specific sports-related concussion measures backed and promoted by the National Football League. In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the “Concussion Management and Awareness Act” that directed the commissioners of health and education to implement rules for treating and monitoring students with mild traumatic brain injuries. The law requires training for school personnel, the dissemination of injury information to parents of pupils who participate in sports, and medical clearance of youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion before sending them back into a game, practice or training.

This is the ninth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield “The Health of America Report” series, a collaboration between the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care.

For more information, visit BCBS.com/healthofamerica.