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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Reports Concussion Diagnoses Spiked 83% for Illinois Youth from 2010 through 2015

Oct. 18, 2016
  • Data show concussion diagnoses rising fastest among members ages 10 through 19
  • Results demonstrate more awareness, changing attitudes about head injuries

Chicago, IL — Concussion diagnoses among young people in Illinois have skyrocketed as expansive news media coverage* of football-related concussions and legislation aimed at preventing participants of youth sports from "shaking off" signs of head injuries have drawn attention to the dangers of head injuries, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Concussion diagnoses among adults also rose significantly over the past six years.

In Illinois, concussion diagnoses for members ages 10 through 19 increased 83 percent, from a rate of 7.6 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 14 per 1,000 members in 2015. This is more than the rate of concussion diagnoses nationally 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 in 2015.

Concussion diagnoses in Illinois for all members age 64 and younger increased 44 percent, from 2.6 per 1,000 members in 2010 to 3.8 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 in 2015.

The report, "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 (BCBS) commercially-insured members throughout the country from 2010 through 2015.

The study also finds that nationally:

  • Fall is the peak concussion season for patients ages 10 through 19, with the most dramatic increases seen among males. Concussion diagnoses for young males in 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 being diagnosed with 49 percent more concussions than young females.
  • BCBS 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. Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had the highest rates of concussion diagnoses for patients ages 10 through 19.
  • The percentage of concussion patients nationally across all ages diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015. Throughout the study, post-concussion syndrome was diagnosed equally for both 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.
  • "As a physician and a parent, I’m glad that concussions are being identified more frequently - because it means more children and adults are receiving care for head injuries," says Opella Ernest, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

    In May 2009, the state of Washington approved the Zackery Lystedt Law, named after a young football player who was disabled after he sustained a concussion and prematurely returned to a game. The law requires medical clearance of youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion before sending them back in the game, practice or training. Within five years of the law's passage, all 50 states and the District of Columbia adopted much of its core principals, which were backed and promoted by the National Football League (NFL). In Illinois, the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act went into effect on July 1, 2011.

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

    For more information, visit

    * Greater awareness is also demonstrated when using Google Trends to measure the number of people in the U.S. who searched for, and the amount of news coverage that included the word "concussion," which increased between 2010 and 2015. The term also is used more on the internet during fall.