Steven M. Erickson, MD, FACP, is a sports and internal medicine physician and medical director of the Banner Concussion Center. His office can be reached at (602) 839-7285. Visit the Banner Concussion Center online for more information.
Question: I’m worried about my children getting concussions from playing sports. What are some precautions to help prevent injury?
Answer: There is no question that participation in athletic programs provides an array of benefits, both for individual athletes and our society as a whole. Sports can go a long way in helping kids stay active, teaching the values of teamwork and building character. However, like most things in life, these benefits don’t come without some risk, including the risk of concussion. Therefore, it is important to take precautions and do your due diligence to keep your children safe while taking part in sports.
Before beginning any sports program, children should undergo baseline testing for concussion to get a snapshot of their “normal” brain function in a non-injured state. Being armed with this understanding of one’s individual brain function can go a long way in measuring and understanding the impact of an injury.
Next on the list of prevention strategies is wearing sport-specific protective equipment, including approved and properly fitted helmets. In addition, children should learn and practice appropriate techniques for avoiding unnecessary head contact to prevent injury and trauma on the field.
If a head injury does occur, seek immediate medical attention. Accurate and timely evaluation, diagnosis and management are essential to preventing adverse consequences of concussion. Unfortunately, many concussions go unrecognized, untreated and even undermanaged. Know the signs and symptoms of concussion. Some of the most common symptoms include: headache; dizziness; confusion; nausea and/or vomiting; numbness or tingling; balance difficulties; changes in vision such as blurred vision or double vision; and drowsiness.
If your child is found to have suffered a concussion, make certain he or she does not return to the field until released by a medical professional and that all symptoms have cleared – both at rest and with exertion. Suffering a second concussion before the first has thoroughly and properly healed poses a significant health risk and may lead to long-term damage. While recovery time varies greatly from person to person, children and adolescents typically recover from concussion within 14 to 21 days.
Concussion, particularly among young athletes, is a serious matter. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov, to learn more about the risks of concussion and prevention tips.