Over the past decade, there has been lots of discussion — and controversy — about the dangers of concussions in football players. But concussions don’t just happen in football, they can occur in almost any sport, and that’s a scary fact for parents. Here’s what parents need to know about concussions in young athletes and how to lower their risk.
RISK FACTORS FOR A CONCUSSION IN SPORTS
Concussions tend to be more common among high school students, but they can happen to kids of all ages. Not surprisingly, concussions happen most in sports where there’s increased opportunity for head contact. But just because a child doesn’t play a contact sport, doesn’t mean they’re off the hook. For kids and teens between the ages of 10 and 19, boys suffered traumatic brain injuries most often while playing football or bicycling, while girls had them most frequently in soccer or basketball games, or while bicycling.
PREVENTION METHODS TO REDUCE ODDS OF A CONCUSSION
There’s no need to panic and take your athlete out of sports, though. While it’s impossible to predict when a concussion will happen, there are ways to lower the risk of a serious brain injury. Try these three tips:
- Practice awareness. Know what concussion symptoms look like and make sure your child knows that if he or she feels “funny” after a hit to the head, they should report it, rather than trying to “tough it out” or being embarrassed to speak up.
- Ensure that the correct protective equipment is being used. This statement comes with a warning: No piece of equipment can completely prevent a concussion. But it does help to have the proper equipment. A sturdy, well-fitting football helmet is better than a loose one.
- Stress the importance of following safety rules of the sport. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages a “culture of safety” for children and their sports team. This means ensuring your child plays with good sportsmanship and follows the coach’s directions for safety.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOUR CHILD HAS A CONCUSSION
Even following all precautionary guidelines, a child can still receive a concussion. Here’s what to do if you think your child has a concussion from a sporting event:
- Seek medical attention immediately. If there’s any reason to suspect a concussion, the child should be assessed by a qualified professional, an athletic trainer, or physician, as soon as possible. If symptoms are severe, head to the Emergency Room.
- Do not allow your child to return to play. Until they have been cleared by a healthcare professional, a child with a known or suspected concussion should not participate in the game. Returning to play too soon may potentially lead to more severe brain damage. Rest is the most important thing your child athlete can do to recover from a concussion
- It’s also a good idea to fill in coaches, teachers, and doctors on your child or teen’s concussion history.
The Truth About Concussions
Myth #1: Helmets prevent concussions.
Fact: While current helmet designs are effective for preventing skull fracture and some more serious brain injuries, they have not been shown to be effective at preventing concussions.
Myth #2: Children bounce back easier than adults.
Fact: Children, especially adolescents and young teenagers, may require longer recovery times and a more careful treatment than adults.
Myth #3: If your child didn’t lose consciousness, he/she doesn’t have a concussion.
Fact: Concussions can occur even when a child does not lose consciousness. Only 10-20 percent of children with concussions report being “knocked out”.
Myth #4: You need a brain imaging test to diagnose a concussion.
Fact: Concussions affect brain function, not structure. A concussion can’t be seen on a CT scan or MRI (an image of the structure of the brain).
Myth #5: A child with a diagnosed concussion should be woken every couple of hours.
Fact: As long as a doctor has ruled out more serious injuries, a child diagnosed with a concussion can sleep as much as he/she needs.
Myth #6: Just play through the pain!
Fact: There is no gain from pain. You can delay recovery substantially, or even cause longer-term consequences by continuing to play.