Sports Concussions in Kids

Now that our children are all back in school, your days are probably filled with homework and all sorts of activities, including team practice if your child is playing a sport. There is a great anticipation for Friday nights in cold stadiums, traveling for out of town exhibitions, daily practices, and not to mention the hours and miles required to make sure our children are where they need to be.

If your child is in sports, whether they are in elementary, middle, or high school, there will be loads of dirty clothes, late nights, broken equipment, skinned knees…and the potential for sports-related concussions and other injuries. Not too long ago we didn’t think much about concussions. Players were given some time to rest and “shake it off” and then back on the team. At great cost, we now have learned the devastating effects of a concussion on our children. So, is there anything you can do to prevent a concussion or do you know the symptoms? And if your child does receive a concussion, what are your treatment options?

SPORTS CONCUSSION PREVENTION

Sports is so important to our children’s experience and has innumerable benefits such as skill development, team building, character building, and just the simple joy of watching them do something they love. As a parent, it brings us an indescribable pride to watch our son or daughter participate in a sport. On the other side of the coin, the risk of engaging in a sport is a potential injury.

It’s a fact that 5-10% of all athletes will experience a concussion. Sports are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among individuals 15-24 years of age. The chances of sustaining a concussion increase significantly depending on the sport – with football and soccer being the most common causes of concussion, at a 75% and 50% chance of concussions, respectively.

According to the Brain Injury Alliance of NJ, here are the best ways to prevent Sports Concussions.

  1. Play by the rules. Teaching young athletes to respect the rules of their sport is part of good coaching.
  2. Wear the appropriate equipment for your sport and wear it properly. Always close a chin strap if your sport requires a helmet; many concussions occur during practice.
  3. Examine the playing field for uneven areas or holes.
  4. Make sure that end posts are padded sufficiently.
  5. Practice good sportsmanship. Teaching good sportsmanship is part of good coaching and good parenting minimizing unnecessary aggression on the field.
  6. Learn and use proper technique for your sport. Some sports organizations have taken additional action to minimize the risk of concussion by limiting the number of contact practices allowed during the season.

CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child athlete it is always better to be safe and have your child checked for a possible concussion.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Noise and/or light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Unequal pupils
  • Mental fog
  • Balance issues
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Memory
  • Concentration/focus
  • Sleep disturbances

A concussion can be a crucial matter so it is wise to take symptoms seriously. Usually, the first 1 or 2 concussions will not have lasting implications, however, permanent damage can result from multiple concussions. Concussions should always be taken seriously, even if symptoms do not appear at first.

CONCUSSION TREATMENT OPTIONS

Your school and coaches should be well-equipped to recommend medical personnel who can carefully and accurately diagnose your child. Your child athlete will most likely be assessed using the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) or Child-SCAT3. Each injury is different and will require protocol specific for your child and their injury. However, REST is crucial for athletes with concussions. As we mentioned before, some symptoms may appear at a later date and could easily be attributed to anything. Keep a watchful eye and bring up even subtle differences you notice to your practitioner. Your doctor and school will have to determine when and if your child can return to the field.

IT’S NOT JUST HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

No matter what age your child is or which sport they are playing, there is the potential for a concussion so it is extremely important to be aware of any changes you may notice in your child’s behavior. Part of keeping our children healthy is being aware of the risks they face and having a plan. We can not eliminate all risks – life is full of them. However, wisdom is preparing the best you are able to, with the knowledge you have now, and if something unexpected does happen, part of the stress and anxiety of a difficult situation is reduced because your family was mentally prepared beforehand.

There are many alternative treatments that are highly successful as well. I encourage you to take the time to research options for concussion treatment if your child is active or involved in sports. Talk to your school and find out what their protocol is and any resources available through them.

Above all – have fun! Being anxious or worrying about what COULD happen takes away from the joy of the moment.

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