As summer comes to an end, it’s time for kids to head back to school. For many, this means a return to sports practices and games. While school athletics provide many benefits, they also carry some risks – particularly when it comes to concussions.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can occur in any sport, though those involving collisions and high speeds – like football, soccer, hockey, and rugby – tend to see the highest rates. According to research, an estimated 1.1 to 1.9 million sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur annually in the U.S. among children ages 18 and younger.
The dangers of concussion are significant, especially for young athletes. Concussions can impair brain function in the short-term and, if not managed properly, lead to long-term neurologic problems. Repeated concussions are of particular concern, as they can cause cumulative effects.
As your kids return to athletics this fall, here are some tips to help protect them from concussion:
- Insist they wear the proper protective gear for their sport and wear it correctly. Helmets, mouthguards, pads, and other equipment help prevent injuries when playing contact sports. Ensure this equipment fits properly and is well maintained.
- Encourage them to follow the rules and techniques of good sportsmanship. Abide by the rules of the game and avoid overly aggressive, reckless play that could lead to injuries. Fair play should be modeled by coaches and parents alike.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of concussion. If your child experiences a blow to the head and shows symptoms like headache, dizziness, confusion, or loss of consciousness, remove them from play immediately. Seek medical attention – a health care provider can officially diagnose a concussion and provide guidance on recovery.
- Advocate for safety. Talk to coaches, athletic trainers, and school officials about concussion risks and prevention. Ensure proper concussion protocols are in place for identifying, treating, and managing concussed athletes. Support the implementation of “return to play” guidelines before allowing athletes back on the field after a concussion.
The start of a new school year is an exciting time full of promise. Make it a safe season by being informed and proactive about concussion risks. A little extra precaution goes a long way in helping kids stay healthy and thrive both in and out of school.
Dr. J. Patrick Johnson is a renowned neurosurgeon and concussion expert and has a has a long history working as a sideline concussion doctor with the NFL.
The information provided on this website should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition and is not meant to take the place of professional medical advice. If you think you have a medical problem, please seek the advice of a physician. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.