Sport-related concussions are the reason for more than half of all adolescent emergency room visits. A child who suffers a concussion is 1.5 times more likely to have another. Children who have two concussions are 3 times more likely to experience another.
Concussions, which are by definition are mild traumatic brain injuries, have been overlooked and minimized throughout history. It is all too common to see an athlete get knocked out on the field, go through a quick sideline check where he or she claims to be fine, and return to play in the very same game, only to be benched for the next 4 weeks to recover from a concussion.
Rest after a concussion is crucial to a successful recovery. It is neither cool nor tough to go back out and play with a brain injury- not even during the playoffs.
New studies on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) are showing the world the dangers of ignoring brain damage in sports. After years of repeated impacts to the head, the players are substantially more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and other brain disorders as they age. Thousands of professional athletes have banded together to sue their leagues (NFL, NHL, etc.) for not doing enough to protect the players from brain injury.
So, What Do You Do When Your Son Wants to Play Football or Your Daughter Wants to Play Soccer?
Sports are, for the most part, good for children. The social benefits are undeniable. Teaching exercise at a young age promotes healthier lifestyles down the road. There are even emotional benefits as kids experience the camaraderie of being on a team, suffering through a loss and celebrating a win. Stephen Broglio, Director of the Neurotrauma Research Lab at University of Michigan, posits the benefits of sports far outweigh the hazards of potential concussions.
The answer is not to exclude children from playing sports. The answer is better prevention before the injury, recognition once it has happened, and treatment along the path to recovery.
Education and Prevention are Key
Coaches, players and parents need to be taught about the risks of concussions and how to detect them. There needs to be a professional nearby who can assess the injury appropriately. Many sideline tests, when done in isolation, are ineffective at diagnosing a concussion or other brain injury. They may miss as many as 40% of concussions. The professional needs to perform multiple tests to form an accurate opinion about concussions.
We have created a guide based on information provided in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will help coaches, players and parents detect concussions.
There are signs we can look out for even without medical training. For example, if the athlete appears to be suffering from memory loss or confusion, a concussion is likely. If he or she is responding to questions slower than usual or moves without his or her normal fluidity, there might be a concussion or other brain injury. Any time a player reports problems with vision, balance, nausea or headache, they should be examined by a medical professional immediately- not after the game!
We are experienced in brain injury litigation and have seen the effects of concussions that go untreated. When it comes to your brain, there is no risk worth taking. Coaches and parents, make sure every athlete with symptoms of brain injury is examined by the appropriate doctor as soon as possible.