Concussions in High School Athletes Alarmingly Frequent

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the number of injuries are often under-counted. In addition, the severity of symptoms is underestimated. For example, some states only require that injured athletes be removed from play for the rest of the day… and yet, a study by the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington found that more than 80% of students who experienced a concussion reported a significant worsening of symptoms over the first four weeks after attempting to return to school academics. (From article in USA Today.)

The primary federal program directed specifically at preventing concussion in high school sports is Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports, a program of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This program provides information for coaches, trainers, athletes, and parents, including information about how long a child should sit on the sidelines after concussion. For example:

“Several factors may affect decisions about when it is safe for an athlete to participate in sports again, which are referred to as return-to-play decisions. For example, research has shown that athletes who have sustained one concussion are at increased risk of sustaining another concussion. An athlete who sustains a repeat concussion before the brain recovers from the first—within hours, days, or weeks—may recover more slowly or may have increased likelihood of long-term consequences. Research has also shown that children and adolescents are more likely than adults to sustain a concussion and take longer to recover from one, although the reasons for this difference remain unclear.” (from the GAO report)

What is clear is that concussion–more precisely known as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI)–is more common than estimated, more damaging to young brains than most people think, and not as respected as it should be. What we’ve learned from studying adult athletes is that repeated mild head trauma can lead to permanent and debilitating brain injury, including early dementia and death.  No one encourages young people to get injured, but there is a strong culture encouraging kids to get back in the game, and to play through the pain. The government’s report is the first step in making sure everyone is aware of the potential severity of every head injury.

(For more information about brain injury, visit HensonFuerst dedicated web page:  HensonFuerst TBI page.)

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