Emergency room visits for head injuries among U.S. youth athletes surged 60 percent in nine years, led by bicycling, football and playground accidents.

Traumatic brain injuries rose to 248,418 cases in 2009 from 153,375 in 2001, according to a report by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accidents from soccer and basketball also contributed to the increase.

The increase probably stems from a heightened awareness among coaches and parents that children need to be seen by a doctor after a head injury, said Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC’s injury prevention center, in a statement from the agency. That’s supported by a relatively stable number of hospitalizations, suggesting that children with less-serious injuries are also seeking care, the report said. That’s important because even mild brain injury can lead to life-long impairment, the report said.

“While some research shows a child’s developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur” after a brain injury, said Richard C. Hunt, head of the CDC’s injury response division.

About 71 percent of all the visits recorded were among boys, according to the data. Most of those in the emergency room, about 71 percent, were 10 to 19 years old. Children under 9 years mostly sustained injuries from bicycling or playground activities. Older boys were mostly injured in football; older girls, mostly from bicycling and soccer, the data showed.

Head injuries contributed to football accounting for 57 percent of trauma-related sports deaths among youths from 1980 to 2009, according to an analysis published in the journal Pediatrics in June. Twelve percent of the 138 football deaths caused by neck or head injuries involved youths who returned to a game after a concussion, the researchers said, who warned that coaches, trainers, parents and students needed to be more aware of the dangers of head trauma.

At least 21 states have laws that pull student athletes from football games after a head injury and set procedures for allowing a safe return, the CDC said in June.