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Heads Up: The Prevalence of Concussion Injuries in Sports

Posted on August 23 2017

Concussions are a regular occurrence in youth sports. In fact, many high school athletes sustain thousands of concussions every year, frequently in soccer, ice hockey, and football. In can be difficult to know when a concussion occurs because it does not always involve losing consciousness. It happens when a change in a child's mental status transpires as a result of brain trauma, typically a blow to the head. Any child showing signs of mental confusion after sustaining a blow to the head has a concussion. A culture of resistance in youth sports may be exacerbating the long-term damage of concussions. The culture causes the player to lie about his injury to remain in the game, or a coach or parent to overlook them. The result is the injured child returning to the game too soon and experiencing subsequent, more severe head injuries.


Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion


If a child suffers from a concussion, parents or the coach should seek proper medical attention promptly. They should receive a list of standard post-concussive symptoms and signs characteristic of exacerbating brain injuries, in addition to recommendations for medical follow-up and return to play. A significant problem with diagnosing concussions is that the injuries are operative, not skeletal, such as a broken bone. MRIs and CT scans do not always show damage from an injury. Instead, symptoms of a concussion tend to present as slower cognitive processing. Symptoms and signs to be cognizant of include:


  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Pressure or pain in head
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Feeling dazed, groggy, or sluggish


For children experiencing persistent complications after a concussion such as dropping grades, sleep disturbances, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and headaches, an effective treatment plan typically combines psychological support, cognitive rehabilitation, education, and in some cases, medication.


Evaluating a Sports-Related Concussion


Doctors manage concussions according to severity. Immediately after suffering a concussion, medical evaluation determines a child's level of consciousness and vitals to rule out other injuries, such as spinal damage. Any child with loss of consciousness as a result of a sports-related head trauma should receive a hospital emergency department evaluation. When athletes sustain a less severe concussion, evaluation is performed on site rather than in at the hospital emergency room. A variety of approaches to sideline assessments of concussion exist in addition to those to help determine when a child suffering a concussion is ready to return to play.


Sports- Related Concussion Treatment Options


Rest is the most crucial treatment for a concussion. That means no working on the computer, playing video games, riding a bicycle, or exercising. Your child needs to stay home from school because education-related work can worsen symptoms. If he goes resumes activities or returns to school before the concussion is completely resolved, his symptoms may exacerbate and take even longer to dissipate. Although it is challenging for an active person to rest, it is the most significant treatment. The steps for progressive return to activity are as follows:


  1. Total quiet with no activity until all symptoms are gone
  2. Slight aerobic exercise, such as walking or riding a stationary bike
  3. Sport-specific activity, such as skating or soccer, for 20 to 30 minutes
  4. Non-contact drills, such as shooting or ball drills
  5. Full-contract drills after receiving clearance from the physician
  6. Resuming regular gameplay


Expect each step to take at least one day. However, if your child exhibits any symptoms of a concussion during a step, he should stop the action immediately and be seen by a doctor before starting the stepwise plan again.


Preventing Sports-Related Concussions


Ensuring the health and safety of children in sports should always be the top priority. Commonly used return-to-play guidelines recommend the removal of an athlete suffering multiple sports-related concussions for increasingly longer periods of time, sometimes for the entire season, to prevent another concussion. Changes in athletic competition rules and guidelines have helped to reduce the number of sports-related concussions. The advances in helmet design and required use of helmets in many contact sports have also resulted in fewer brain traumas. Enhanced conditioning of young athletes, particularly strengthening their neck muscles, may also help prevent concussions.


Disclaimer: This is an informational blog. We are not doctors nor do we claim to have any formal medical background. All information is intended to help you cooperate with your doctor and is presented for informational purposes only, not medical advice. Readers are cautioned not to rely on this information as medical advice and to consult a qualified medical profession for their specific needs.


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