There was a story on National Public Radio (NPR) today about the growing concern over concussion in youth sports. This is a topic that has been in the news (and in our own blogs) this entire year, and it shows no sign of going away. Thank heaven! The more voices that join the chorus of concern, the healthier our children will be now, and in the future.
According to the story, concussions are now the second most common injury in kids’ sports. And due to more sports opportunities and a greater emphasis on performance, the hits are not only more frequent, but harder than ever before. On the scientific side, we now know that concussion is not a simple, benign bump on the head. As described by NPR:
Concussions used to be described as a brain bruise, but doctors now like to say that it’s a problem with the brain’s function, a problem that can’t be detected by MRI or CT scan. When the brain suddenly slams to a stop, the brain’s neurons all fire at once. That surge of energy temporarily messes up the brain’s electrical and chemical signal system, making it hard to think straight.
After kids suffers a concussion, doctors recommend that they rest their brains as well as their bodies. They are sidelined from sports until cleared by a doctor, and they need to cut back on everything that requires complex thought including playing a musical instrument and even texting. Once their brains are healed, kids are asked to ease slowly back into their usual routine.
…some schools are trying to do a better job of monitoring student athletes by taking a page from the NFL’s playbook. Last year, Churchill High School in Potomac, Md., started assessing student athletes’ memory and reaction time with the online ImPACT test, the same test used in the NFL, to see how their brains work.
“If there’s a potential concussion and they retest, we look for abnormalities,” says Dave Kelley, the athletic director at Churchill. “If they perform poorly on memorization or don’t react as quickly, that may show signs of a brain injury.” Kelley has benched eight or nine students in the past 18 months whose second tests suggested a concussion. [from the NPR story]
These measures sometimes seem like overkill to parents and coaches who grew up in a time when athletes were encouraged to “walk off” the pain and disorientation of a concussion. But studies have shown that concussions—especially multiple concussions—greatly increase the risk of permanent brain damage. In the long run, concussions may even lead to premature dementia and even death.
The brain injury attorneys of HensonFuerst believe that there’s no such thing as “too much” concern about kids’ concussions. A child has one brain to last a lifetime…how crazy is it to risk permanent injury for the sake of a game?
To read or listen to the NPR story, click here: NPR Concussion Story
To read our blogs about concussion and other brain injury topics, click here: HensonFuerst TBI blog
Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a concussion awareness campaign called “Heads Up Youth Sports.” To see the Heads Up informational poster, click here: Heads Up Concussion Poster