Is your child or children active in sports? Soccer, football or hockey maybe? It would be easy to pretend that the news coverage of NFL TBIs’ (Traumatic Brain Injury) or concussion cases and settlements do not apply to your sports active child. We have just begun to scratch the subject of concussions or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and sports related injuries.
As kids develop earlier, workout harder, and become competitive at earlier ages, the amount and number of hits and hard impacts to their heads goes up. High school students are bigger, stronger and competing for college scholarships all across the nation. So the question becomes: At what age does the possibility of TBIs’ become something to be concerned about? The short answer is, as soon as you kiddo straps on a helmet.
Whether it’s organized sports or recreational activities, more and more young people are suffering from concussions. The American Orthopedic Society of Sports Medicine (AOSSM) reports a 60-percent increase in concussion incidence among those aged 5 to 24 from 2007 to 2014. These TBIs’ are not a NFL phenomenon. They are widespread throughout all contact sports and can begin at the age of 5.
Dr. Jennifer Norman, a pediatric neurologist at INTEGRIS in Oklahoma City stated ““A concussion is any alteration of brain function caused by an impact to the head, this typically is associated with headache, dizziness, confusion, memory loss and difficulty concentrating.” A concussion can occur at any age. The younger human body is still developing, so the bones of a child have not matured and hardened to the point that they may at a later age, so the conclusion could be made that there is a greater risk of brain trauma that exists within younger age groups.
“It is incredibly important for children, parents and coaches to be educated in the signs and symptoms of a concussion,” Dr. Norman says. “If there is even a slight suspicion of a concussion, the athlete should immediately be removed from play until they can be evaluated. Athletes tend to be very competitive and will often sacrifice their own health for the team when in the heat of competition.” Add in the possibility of starting positions, college scholarships and other outside factor and the willingness of children to “play through the pain” and hide or cover-up injuries increases.
To put it simply, if athletes do not properly deal with concussions and return to play too soon, The athlete runs the risk of severe cognitive complications, brain damage and even death. “If an athlete is hit again while they are recovering from a concussion – the ‘second hit phenomenon’ – the brain can suddenly swell,” Dr. Norman goes on to say. “In addition, an athlete continuing to push themselves physically or mentally while still recovering from a concussion will only lengthen the recovery process.”
The responsibility falls on the parent. They should track the number of concussions and include that in their child’s medical history, especially in preseason physical evaluations. If they have had too many concussions, the parent(s) or guardian(s) may have to keep their children out of a contact sports due to the risk of another concussion occurring and possibly suffering long lasting, possibly deadly consequences.
Dr Norman offers some of the best advice: “I tell all of my patients that doctors can fix a lot of problems. They can replace your kidneys, liver, even heart. But you only have one brain, and there is no way to fix or replace it. Use your head wisely and save your brain.”
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