Concussions and Head Injuries in Sports
Organized sports teach children and adolescents how to work as a team, develop leadership, earn respect, learn discipline and stay active. Unfortunately, injury also comes with the territory. Just as a game or practice stops for a pulled muscle, sprain or broken bone, if an athlete is suspected to have a possible concussion—it’s time to get off the field.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury resulting from a direct hit or force to the head or neck that causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact sports are second, only to vehicle accidents, as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among individuals 15-24.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussions in youth sports may be mild to severe, but all need to be treated by a medical professional. A common myth is that a person needs to fall unconscious or “black out” in order to have a concussion. This is not always the case. The following are signs and symptoms of a concussion:
- Memory loss
- Behavior change
- Delayed physical responses
- Slurred or unclear speech
- Empty stare
- Blurred vision
- Sleepy or sleep problems
Serious long-term consequences may occur if a concussion is left untreated. If you suspect that your child may have a concussion or you notice that your child is showing signs or symptoms of a concussion, contact your child’s primary physician right away or take your child to the emergency room.
Prevention of Concussions
The best defense against sustaining a sports-related concussion is to make sure your child:
- Understands the rules of the game
- Learns proper training techniques
- Plays with children his/her age, size and development level
If a child does sustain a head injury during play, the child should be removed from play and evaluated by a medical professional.
As the parent, you can ask your child’s coach for the plan of action if a child is injured during the activity. Remember, you are the parent and if you feel your child has received any injury that should be medically evaluated, you have the authority to remove your child from play and seek medical care.
Nebraska Law Regarding Concussions
Nebraska is one of 26 states that signed a Concussion Safety Law (LB 260), requiring schools to offer trainings to coaches on how to recognize the symptoms and to seek proper medical treatment for a concussion or brain injury. The law also requires immediate removal from the practice or game if the athlete is suspected to have a concussion or brain injury. In order to return to play, the athlete must be cleared by a licensed medical professional.
Concussions in Sports
On the field or on the court, a concussion is going to follow a head injury.
It's going to be a kid who just looks a little bit dazed or confused, isn't quite following directions very well. Certainly if it's severe enough that the child is unconscious on the field, that's easy.
What is the treatment for a concussion?
Treatment for a concussion requires absolute rest, which means both mental and physical rest. And it's the mental part of that, that people fail to recognize.
It will impact your schooling or your job performance if you're at work. If you have a hard time focusing, following through, concentrating, it will impact your test scores, everything gets involved.
How common are concussions?
I think with all of the recent press and raised awareness with concussions we're certainly seeing them a lot more now than we were before. I don't think they are more common than they were before. I just think people are recognizing them and realizing the significance and getting in and getting help.
During football season, wrestling season, and soccer, to be honest, those are the sports I probably see the most of them. Football and soccer being the two highest. The majority of soccer concussions come with the impact of the head to the ground. Kids are jumping, getting hit in the air, and then falling completely unprotected.
Should I discourage my child from participating in certain sports?
I think the increased awareness of concussions certainly has increased our conversations in clinic, as far as what sports are appropriate or safe for kids, what should I be allowing my child to participate in. Unless your child has really demonstrated symptoms or had problems, I try not to put any restrictions or limitations on the kids, in fact, I would promote that activity as much as I could.
Football is obviously the main target but people don't realize, we see just as much from soccer and certainly wrestling as well. Once you start having problems, the discussion has to change.