If you’re the parent of a child in sports, your ears likely perk up whenever you hear a story about kids and concussions on the news. But how much do you really know about concussions in kids’ sports?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “a concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by an injury to the body that makes the head and brain move quickly back and forth.” But do certain youth sports pose a greater risk of concussion than others?
“Concussions are more prominent in sports that have collisions, hitting or tackling, like football, rugby, soccer, cheerleading and ice hockey,” said Steven Erickson, MD, a sports medicine specialist with Banner – University Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Erickson explained that there are other sports you may not immediately tie to concussion risk, including baseball and softball, where a young athlete could be hit in the head by the ball.
How to know if it’s a concussion
Assessing whether your child has experienced a concussion is critical and can be done by being aware of concussion symptoms to look for:
- Headache or pressure in the head
- Blurred or double vision
- Feeling sluggish or groggy
- Sensitivity to light or noise
- Nausea or vomiting
“The vast majority of kids who suffer a concussion never lose consciousness,” said Dr. Erickson. “Symptoms may show up immediately following injury, but it could also be days or weeks post-injury that these symptoms present.” If your child exhibits any of these symptoms after an injury, you should take your child directly to the doctor or emergency room.
Prevention is key with concussions
Let’s be honest; children who play sports are more at risk for concussion than those who don’t. But, “it’s important to remember that the overall benefits to your child participating in sports significantly outweigh the potential risk of concussion,” said Dr. Erickson.
“Concussion prevention is best achieved by your child learning the fundamentals of his or her sport and using proper technique to avoid or engage in contact,” said Dr. Erickson, who went on to explain that it’s also important to use the proper protective equipment, such as a helmet, headgear or mouthguard. While these items can’t prevent a concussion entirely, they may lessen your child’s chances of a serious head injury.
Before beginning any sports program, you should consider having your child undergo baseline testing for concussion. “Baseline testing allows us to get a snapshot of your child’s ‘normal’ brain function in a non-injured state,” said Dr. Erickson. “Having this pre-injury assessment can go a long way in measuring and understanding the impact of your child’s head injury.”
A focus on youth concussions
The risk of concussion in youth athletics is more prominent than for adults simply because more kids play sports than do adults. With youth athletes, symptoms of concussion can take several weeks longer to fully resolve, according to Dr. Erickson. Young athletes who sustain a second head injury before they have recovered from their initial concussion are at risk for Second Impact Syndrome (SIS), which the U.S. National Library of Medicine defines as when an athlete suffers post-concussive symptoms following a head injury and then returns to play and sustains a second head injury. The dangerous results of SIS include diffuse cerebral swelling, brain herniation or even death.
There’s no doubt that concussions in children are serious. If you’re interested in having baseline concussion testing done for your child or concerned that your little athlete may have sustained a concussion, contact the Banner - University Sports Medicine and Concussion Specialists or find another location near you.