It's common to bump your head as a kid whether on the playground or playing sports, but rarely did we ever imagine we might suffer from concussions. It turns out, however, that concussions among adolescents are much higher than previously believed, and the rate is just increasing, according to a new study that will be presented at the American Orhopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 2016 annual meeting.

In the study, the researchers examined 8.8 million people who were part of a large private payer insurance group, and they found that a large chunk of concussion patients were adolescents under the age of 19. “32 percent of the individuals diagnosed with concussion were between the ages of 10-19 years old with the largest increase in incidence between 2007 and 2014 in that age group,” said lead study author Dr. Alan Zhang, of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, in a press release. “This is the first study to evaluate trends in concussion diagnoses across the general U.S. population in a variety of age groups.”

Interestingly, it was the 15- to 19-year-olds who had the highest prevalence of concussions, at 16.5 cases per 1,000 people. Kids between the ages of 10 and 14 had the second highest rate, at 10.5 per 1,000, and those between the ages of 5 and 9 had the third highest, at 3.5 per 1,000. But perhaps the most striking finding was the fact that concussions increased by 60 percent between 2007 and 2014, particularly in adolescents aged 10 to 19 years old.

There are plenty of reasons why we’re seeing such a huge increase in concussions in recent years. Zhang and his team believe it “may in part be due to the rise in youth sports participation,” in which kids are being exposed to more head trauma risks. Football in particular has a high risk of concussions or other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

But it’s also likely that recent media attention on TBI and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players has sparked coaches and physicians to be more aware of concussions, and as a result, there have been “better diagnostic skills/training for coaches and sports medicine professionals,” Zhang noted in the press release. Simply put, more awareness means more diagnoses, when in the past concussions were likely to go unreported. Concussions are considered a mild TBI, but they’re the most common and can still cause concerning symptoms in the patient, including fatigue, headaches, sluggishness, memory loss, dizziness, and even depression. In certain cases, concussion symptoms don’t even appear until weeks or months after the initial injury.

Zhang believes better awareness of TBI among young people is critical. And despite the fact that an increase in diagnoses may be a good thing, the “trend is alarming… and the youth population should definitely be prioritized for ongoing work in concussion diagnosis, education, treatment and prevention,” he said in the press release. Indeed, another study published earlier this year found that pediatric head injuries are vastly underestimated, and doctors should aim to improve diagnostic skills for young people and athletes.

Source: Zhang A, et al. American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 43rd Annual Meeting, 2016.