Treating And Preventing Concussions

There is a growing awareness of the potential long-term cognitive and physical impacts of concussions at every level of sports.

Concussion awareness is on the rise in youth sports. Photo Courtesy © Can Stock Photo Inc. / pahham

A 2011 survey on behalf of Safe Kids USA found that 42 percent of parents worry to some degree about their children suffering a concussion while playing a team sport. Parents surveyed also indicated they and the coaches need to be trained in sports-injury prevention and sports safety.

While there is still much to learn, parents also felt they are more knowledgeable than they were a decade ago and take more precautions to keep their kids safe.

Due to advances in medicine, greater knowledge of the seriousness of concussions and other head injuries, and a concerted effort by professional athletes to educate youth athletes, there is now much more awareness of the long-term health implications of getting just one concussion–let alone multiple concussions.

At the professional level, a number of well-publicized athletes have suffered the long-term consequences of multiple concussions. As a result, many of the athletes have had their careers cut short.

These types of tragedies emphasize today’s need for better concussion care for athletes–especially the youngest competitors.

The Basics–What Is A Concussion?

Contrary to popular belief, a concussion is not a bruise to the brain caused by hitting a hard surface. In most cases, no physical swelling or bleeding is seen on radiological scans.

The injury generally occurs when the head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly due to a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.

The numbers are frightening and tell their own story. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a total of 135,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18 are treated in emergency rooms each year for sports- or recreation-related concussions and other head injuries.

And, with 30 to 40 million kids playing sports every year, the chance of suffering a concussion is more common than most people imagine. Although death from a sports injury is rare, the leading cause of death from a sports-related injury is a brain injury.

A concussion can result in a change in a child’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning. Coaches report their youth athletes may appear dazed or stunned, are confused about their assigned position, forget an instruction or play, and/or are unsure of the score or opponent.

Other signs of a possible concussion include moving clumsily or with poor balance, answering questions slowly, briefly losing consciousness, showing mood or personality changes, and/or being unable to recall events prior to the hit or fall or after the hit or fall.

Trickle-Down Effect From The Pros

We often hear news stories about the forced retirements of amazing star quarterbacks or renowned boxers because of the numerous concussions they have suffered. But the awareness goes beyond that, and that awareness thankfully trickles down to the college-level athletes and eventually, although to a lesser degree, to high-school and middle-school athletes.

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