July 3, 2019 6:07 pm
Updated: July 4, 2019 5:49 pm

Study finds concussion rates for kids under 5 higher than previously believed

WATCH: The largest study on concussions in Canada has revealed Ontario's concussion rate is nearly twice as high as previously reported. But are more people getting injured, or are the symptoms of concussions better recognized now? Heather Yourex-West reports.

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Four-year-old Koebe Boettcher is trying his best to be careful this summer after suffering a serious concussion and skull fracture in May.

The Airdrie, Alta., preschooler was injured in a fall and spent three days in hospital.

“He had four seizures,” said Koebe’s mother, Ashley Boettcher. “[It was] a severe concussion. It caused vomiting and confusion. He was lethargic for a little bit.”

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A new study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation has found that concussion rates in Ontario are double the number previously reported. On average, the research found that 150,000 Ontario residents were diagnosed with a concussion each year between 2008 and 2016.

Children under five experienced the highest rate of concussions compared to all other age groups.

WATCH: The largest concussion study in Canadian history found the rate of concussions was nearly double what was previously reported, and the hardest hit group is young kids. Lauren Pullen sat down with senior researcher Dr. Mark Bayley to delve into the findings.

READ MORE: New concussion guidelines for children could change practices around the world

Despite the numbers, the study’s co-author says she doesn’t believe concussion rates are actually on the rise. Instead, she attributes the higher rates to increased awareness.

“There are more people that know that it’s a concussion, know they need to go to the doctor for it, and more doctors are able to correctly identify a concussion,” said Laura Langer, research analyst at Toronto’s University Health Network.

WATCH (June 21, 2019): Scouts Canada educates kids about concussion safety

Dr. Brian Brooks, a Calgary pediatric neuropsychologist, says busy preschoolers just take a lot more falls. The challenge for parents, however, is identifying the difference between a harmless bump on the head and something more serious.

The Alberta Children’s Hospital physician says parents should watch their child’s behaviour after a head injury.

“If a child is inconsolable, and they’re upset and they won’t stop crying or they’re acting different — as in maybe they’re more irritable and they want to sleep — those types of behaviours [are] what we want to look for in a young child who can’t tell us: ‘My head hurts’ or ‘I feel different,'” Brooks explained.

READ MORE: Only half of Canadians know the signs of concussions: survey

Brooks says the long-term impact of concussions for young children is not yet fully known.

“What we think is that they actually recover very, very well, and part of that is their age and where they are in their development,” he said.

That certainly seems to be the case for Koebe. Less than two months after his fall, his mother says the little boy is back to his old self.

“He’s doing amazing,” Boettcher said. “We’re so very lucky. He’s doing so good.”

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