Gerber, Tim. “Tracking Concussions Could Lead to Safer Sports for Texas Student Athletes.” KSAT. KSAT, 08 Oct. 2016. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.
Big hits are a big part of the action under the Friday night lights, but just how many of those violent collisions result in traumatic brain injuries?
The answer may be surprising: No one knows.
But the KSAT-12 Defenders have learned that the state of Texas could be the first in the nation to establish its own concussion research database to find out. In 2011, Texas legislators passed House Bill 2038, known as Natasha’s Law, which established a statewide concussion protocol to be followed by all schools.
“What that specific law did was require every school district to adopt a concussion oversight team. The concussion oversight team has one charge — to develop the return-to-play protocol for any student suspected of having a concussion.” said Jamey Harrison, deputy director of the University Interscholastic League, which oversees most high school sports in Texas. “If they suspect a student has suffered a concussion, the student must be removed from play and go through the return-to-play protocol before they can re-enter play.”
Clark High School football player Michael Oliver went through the protocol when he suffered a concussion during practice last year.
“I knew as soon as it happened, because I felt it,” Oliver said, recalling about the hit.
Oliver said he knew instantly something was wrong, so he went to the sideline and told a coach, who then sent him to see a team trainer. The trainer pulled Oliver from practice and told him he needed to see his personal physician to be evaluated for a concussion.
Oliver’s doctor, Evan Ratner, diagnosed him with a concussion and ordered him to rest his brain, removing him from school for a few days and ending his football season.
“I wasn’t allowed to use electronics or drive,” Oliver said. “It was constant pain. My head hurt all the time.”
According to numbers provided to the Defenders by several local districts, Oliver was just one of several hundred student athletes to suffer a concussion last year.
Northside ISD provided the most detailed numbers, offering up to two years worth of concussion injury data kept by district trainers.
The numbers revealed 527 concussions were logged by the district’s high school and middle school student athletes, 230 were suffered by football players, while girls soccer had the second most concussion injuries with 85.
The numbers may seem high but not when you consider how many student athletes participate in NISD’s sports programs.
“We’re around 1.6 percent to 2 percent out of 14,000 athletes, and that’s middle school and high school,” said Paul Rost, coordinator of NISD’s Athletic Trainers. “They (numbers) pretty well stay the same. We’ll have years just like any other injury or sport where you’ll see years that you have a lot of knee injuries or ankle injuries the next year, it goes up and down.”
Rost said any student suspected of having a concussion is immediately pulled from the game or practice and placed into the state mandated five-day concussion protocol established by Natasha’s Law.
“Once we are told that they have a concussion, we have to get the doctors note. We hand them the form and they have to go through our protocol before they can go back on the field,” Rost said.
Even if a doctor finds the student didn’t have a concussion, they must still wait five days to return to play.
NISD takes it a step further when it comes to middle school athletes, requiring those students to sit out at least eight days.
“Mainly because if you get a concussion and the symptoms reoccur during your evaluation period, you have to go back to the doctor. So we just wanted to give those middle school athletes a little more time. Younger brain, a little bit more time to heal up,” Rost said.
In addition to establishing the concussion protocols, the UIL was the first organization of its kind to also set limits on full contact practices to reduce concussions. Texas schools are limited to 90 minutes of full contact practice per player per week. Even with those measures in place, some feel the UIL could do more to reduce the impact of concussion injuries in the state.
Since 2011, the UIL has been collecting information on concussion injuries as part of its injury reporting system, but it only included a handful of schools and only for concussions that occurred on the football field.
“Right now, our injury reporting is only a sample of schools. It is not a scientific study. It was never intended to be a scientific study. It merely provides a snapshot of data,” Harrison said. “It sounds very easy in the general public to say you should collect concussion data, but just knowing that someone was concussed or suspected of having a concussion doesn’t do us much good. It has to be a scientifically based study and we’re not a medical research institution.”
That’s why the UIL is now partnering with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair to launch the first comprehensive study of sports-related concussions called ConTex. For now, the study is a voluntary pilot program, but Harrison expects that to change.
“Our hope is that for as early as next school year, it would become mandatory for all schools to report suspected concussions to that registry through their module for every sport,” Harrison said. “That would include all sports, boys and girls, sub-varsity and varsity. So it would be a very comprehensive data collection and simply the most comprehensive model in the country. Concussions are a problem in every single sport, even swimming and diving,” he said. “Every sport we have, there is a concern about concussions. And how to go about addressing those concerns may differ from sport to sport, but we have to get that information so we know how to move forward.”
Harrison said the UIL hope the study will help them identify best practices that can be applied to reduce concussions. It could potentially identify what some Texas schools are already doing well that could be shared with other with schools in the state, such as teaching different techniques and identifying which schools are doing a better job of returning students to play after a concussion with less instances of reoccurrence.
“Ultimately, what we hope to do in getting the information back from those medical researchers is to make the games we provide as safe as they possibly can be,” Harrison said.
Ratner said one thing schools could start doing in the meantime is requiring student athletes to undergo baseline concussion testing prior to starting their sport each season.
The computer program Ratner uses puts the athletes through a series of tests and creates a score that can then be used to evaluate a student after suffering a concussion.
“Everybody’s baseline concussion testing is unique. It’s not an IQ test. It doesn’t tell me how smart the person is. It doesn’t tell me how good of a student they are. But different people think differently and their brains react differently and their reaction time is different,” Ratner said. “So what may be a normal baseline for someone, might represent an injured brain for someone else. I can compare someone not just to age and gender controls, but I can compare them to themselves.”
Ratner said having the baseline test can help determine when an athlete has recovered from a concussion, allowing a physician to clear them for return to play when their bodies are actually ready. He said the danger of returning a student to play too soon could have long term effects.
“Until a concussion is healed, the threshold for re-injury is much lower. So if they’re back to their routine activity and they’re taking big hits, every single one of them exceeds the threshold. Every single one of them is going to make things worse,” Ratner explained. “And by worse I mean more severe symptoms, symptoms that last longer even potentially permanently and in pretty rare conditions you can get something called second impact syndrome which is unfortunately even fatal.”
When it comes to creating a statewide concussion database and clinical study, Ratner believes the UIL is taking a big step in the right direction.
“We still don’t know exactly who’s going to have long-term effects and who’s not going to have long-term effects. So, by gathering the data and gathering this information it will really help us determine over the long-term who’s at higher risk for chronic injuries over many, many years,” Ratner said. “If we can keep track of concussions well it gives us an idea of really the scope of the problem and what we’ll come to realize is we’re not doing enough for them in San Antonio and we need to increase what we’re doing, including adding the baseline concussion studies.”
Interactive Map- https://www.thinglink.com/scene/834916583036944384
Dr. Evan Ratner- http://iuc.nextcare.com/plan-your-visit/services/concussion-care/
KSAT Digital Team Story on Concussion Helmets- http://www.ksat.com/sports/big-game-coverage/tmi-thinks-outside-helmet-to-soften-effects-of-football-injuries-concussions
10-year old Blaine Dyer is getting a checkup of his brain.
Gwinnett Medical Center pediatric neuropsychologist Dr. Adam Shunk wants to know how the Dacula fourth-grader is doing after Dyer took a hard hit during a youth football scrimmage game a couple of months ago.
“When I play football, I don’t cry unless I’m really hurt,” says the Gwinnett fourth-grader.
But, this time, Dyer did cry, for good reason.
“This kid grabbed my legs and then another kid came beside me and hit me right on my head,” he says. “It was hurting my head, because my helmet was squishing my head a little.”
Dyer was taken out of the game, suspected of having a concussion.
That hit may have jarred or shaken his brain inside his skull.
Sometimes there are symptoms, but sometimes not.
And while it’s dangerous to return to play too soon, before the brain has had time to heal, Dr. Shunk says many young athletes may be reluctant to admit they’re hurting.
“I mean every kid wants to get back on the field as quick as possible,” says Shunk. “So they’re not always going to tell you when they’re having symptoms.”
Dyer says he wanted back on the field.
“And I was kind of mad, because I really wanted to play my game, because I’d been waiting for it,” he says.
But a new screening tool could take the guesswork out of screening children as young as 5 for concussion.
It’s called ImPACT Pediatric.
“It evaluates areas that are sensitive to a concussion: such as speed of processing, their learning and memory abilities and general attention, that can be disrupted when you’re recovering from a concussion,” says Dr. Shunk.
Many high school and college athletes already get baseline ImPACT screenings before their season begins.
Then, they retake the test to look for changes in their performance after a suspected concussion.
Now, Dr Shunk says, they can do the same before and after screening for athletes between the ages of 5 and 11.
Blaine Dyer, who is now happily back in the game, recently scored his first touchdown of the season.
It’s really exciting,” he says. “When you first go out there, and you have a concussion. And then you go back on the field and score a touchdown, it’s really cool.”
Galvin, Beth. “New Tool Helps Screen Young Athletes for Concussion.” WAGA. FoxATL, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.
At a time when athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than decades ago, precautions are being implemented to reduce the risks of concussions.
McCrabb, Rick. “Concussion Diagnoses in Children up 500 Percent.” News & Information for Hamilton, Middletown and Butler &… Journal News, 21 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016
Fourteen-year-old Richmond student Blake Charlesworth lives and breathes soccer. He hopes to become a professional player and one day play in goal for FC Barcelona, his favourite club.
He knows that to make his dream a reality he’s going to have to watch the knocks to the head. Although doctors don’t know the long-term effects of multiple concussions on young brains, they do know that by continuing to play without a full recovery could lead to more. And experts fear that could disrupt cognitive development.
As a goalie for Richmond Football Club, Charlesworth has hit his head a few times on the goal post, but he isn’t aware of ever having a concussion. That’s why he was keen to take part in testing first-of-its-kind concussion screening technology for young athletes, developed at the University of B.C.
About 20 young soccer players from Richmond FC volunteered to undergo ectroencephalogram (EEG) scanning at Brighouse Park in Richmond on Saturday. They also sat down after the screening with a doctor for a neuropsychological evaluation for concussion diagnosis.
Vancouver-based EEGlewave uses a computer algorithm that can distinguish between the EEG of a healthy brain and that of a concussed brain.
“My parents said this would be really good for me, so in case I ever do get a concussion I would have something to go on,” said Charlesworth, as analysts measured his head for the brain scanner device.
The company’s plan is to create a product using data from young players as a baseline to help sports physicians diagnose concussion quickly and more accurately.
Using his data as a baseline, doctors and analysts at EEGlewave can later monitor Charlesworth’s brain should he get a knock to the head and determine whether he has a concussion by comparing the new EEG with that of his previously recorded healthy EEG.
Youth players found to have a concussion, however mild, can then take the necessary time off from their the sport to recover instead of continuing and possibly exacerbating the problem.
Charlesworth said he has loved soccer ever since he was five years old, and wants to make sure he stays healthy to play.
“My dad is a big soccer fan, my mum loves soccer too. It is a real family tradition. I’m the only one to want to go far with it so it’s a very big part of my life. I sleep, breathe and eat it.”
Like many young players, Charlesworth isn’t 100-per-cent sure he has never had a concussion. Rein Webber, chair of Richmond FC, said it is very common for coaches and the players to believe everything is OK after a hit to the head and continue playing.
“This is a whole new level of keeping our kids safe,” Webber said about the new brain scanning tool. “We can’t avoid injury but we can help the recovery. And we want to be there to support the players and their families as they go through the recovery process.”
Dr. Naznin Virji-Babul, who co-founded EEGlewave in 2015, said the brains of kids and adolescents don’t stop developing until about their mid-20s. With this new tool, she said they can study how a concussion affects a developing brain and how to help kids recover.
EEGlewave has already collected baseline data from some Vancouver Whitecaps players, as well as youth in the Seafair Minor Hockey Association in Richmond.
“After the kids have a concussion, we repeat the testing. What we have found is that using our technology we are about 95 per cent accurate in being able to tell that someone has had a change in their brain as a result of the concussion,” said Virji-Babul, an assistant professor at UBC’s department of physical therapy who studies concussions.
If kids keep playing through a concussion, Virji-Babul said there is around a 30-per-cent chance of that child getting another.
“Their brains are still undergoing a lot of change, and we know the major changes are happening in their frontal cortex,” she said. “That’s the part of the brain that controls memory and attention. And it also controls risk-taking behaviour. So these are really important cognitive skills that are being developed.”
A 2013 report by Child Health B.C. found that during a one-year period there were 6,675 concussion-related emergency department visits by children and youth in the Lower Mainland.
Tiffany Crawford (Vancouver Sun) Published: September 17, 2016Updated: September 17, 2016 11:24 PMFiled Under:The Province Health Family & ChildShareNew Concussion Screening Tool for Young Athletes Developed in Rich. “New Concussion Screening Tool for Young Athletes Developed in Richmond.”Www.theprovince.com. Province, 17 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.
Collaborative care, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), was linked with decreased reporting of postconcussive symptoms as well as fewer depressive symptoms among adolescents with persistent symptoms of concussion, a small randomized trial found.
Six months following treatment, a significantly smaller portion of the group that received collaborative care reported having postconcussive symptoms, and a larger portion of the collaborative care group reported a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared with kids receiving usual care, reported Carolyn A. McCarty, PhD, of Seattle Children’s Hospital, and colleagues, writing in Pediatrics.
In an email to MedPage Today, McCarty said that there are no evidence-based treatments to address prolonged concussive symptoms, which can be particularly problematic for adolescents, who are learning and developing very rapidly.
“Based on our experience using collaborative care and cognitive behavioral therapies to address other health problems, we had reason to believe that these approaches would translate well to address post-concussive symptoms,” she said. “We believe we have developed an effective alternative to watchful waiting that meaningfully impacts quality of life for patients with prolonged concussion.”
This was a small pilot study of 47 patients ages 11-17 years (mean 15.0 years, 65% girls, 75% white), who reported persistent symptoms more than a month after a sports-related concussion. The sample was comprised of 57.5% sports-related concussions and 42.5% recreation-related concussions (such as trampoline park injuries). There was a significantly larger portion of kids sustaining sports-related concussions in the collaborative care group versus those in usual care.
Overall, after the full 6 months of treatment, 13.0% of the collaborative care group continued to report postconcussive symptoms compared with 41.7% of the usual care group (P=0.03). Over three-quarters of the collaborative care group also reported a more than 50% reduction in depressive symptoms after 6 months of treatment compared with 45.8% of the usual care group (P=0.02). However, there were no significant differences between the two groups in anxiety symptoms.
McCarty added that 41% of the sample presented with symptoms of depression, a frequently co-occurring problem among youth with post-concussive symptoms.
“It is important to screen for depression among youth with persistent concussion symptoms,” she said. “Pediatricians should also consider partnering with a behavioral health provider when possible to manage these patients, particularly therapists with experience using cognitive behavioral approaches.”
In total, 23 patients completed the collaborative care model of treatment. Each patient received cognitive behavioral therapy to target symptoms of anxiety and depression. Care management involved coordinating with the patient’s school as the treatment progressed. Patients also had the opportunity to consult with an expert in pediatric psychopharmacology to address any symptoms that did not respond to behavioral therapy.
For the 24 patients who completed the usual care model, they received an initial visit to a sports medicine-trained physician, followed by a referral to an expert in pediatric rehabilitation if symptoms did not resolve in 4-6 weeks. Follow-up was conducted by the referring clinic concussion specialist.
Examining types of healthcare visits, 33% of the usual care group reported visits to a mental health professional, while 8% saw a psychiatrist. Nearly 60% of the usual care group saw their primary care physician, although 21% sought treatment from “another physician.”
A third of the collaborative care group received psycho-pharmacologic counseling, and completed a median number of eight CBT sessions over the 6-month treatment period. Outpatient concussion-related visits were similar between the intervention and control groups (average of 6.2 visits versus 5.8 visits, respectively).
Limitations to the study include the small sample size and demographic makeup, which may limit the generalizability of the findings, and that researchers used the PHQ-9 to evaluate depressive symptoms, which may overlap with concussion symptoms.
McCarty characterized the study as “a great launching point” for more research, such as whether boys recover differently from concussions than girls, as well as a longer follow-up period to observe the patients. She added that further collaboration is needed with schools in terms of managing students who have had a concussion.
“We found that there are often school-related needs and issues to consider in the treatment plan as well, such as determining whether accommodations are needed to promote academic learning in the context of post-concussive symptoms,” said McCarty. “More guidance and education is needed around when and how to support patients as they ‘return to learn.'”
This study was supported by the Seattle Sports Concussion Research Collaborative.
Source Reference: McCarty CA, et al “Collaborative care for adolescents with persistent postconcussive symptoms: A randomized trial” Pediatrics 2016; DOI: 10.1542/
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its first-ever clearance for marketing of devices designed to help clinicians assess cognitive function immediately after a suspected brain injury or concussion.
Called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) and ImPACT Pediatric, the tool was approved under a new FDA category titled “Computerized Cognitive Assessment Aid for Concussion.” The test battery is already used by more than 7,400 high schools, 1,000 colleges and universities, and 900 clinical centers as a way to test cognitive skills such as word memory, reaction time, and word recognition. ImPACT is designed for use on individuals aged 12 to 59, and operates on a desktop or laptop computer; ImPACT Pediatric is intended for children aged 5 to 11, and is run on an iPad.
While not intended as the sole tool for making a diagnosis or return-to-play decision, the ImPACT device can provide additional evaluative information though comparisons with age-matched databases or patient baseline scores, according to an FDA news release. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based ImPACT Applications submitted more than 250 peer-reviewed articles—half of which were independent clinical research studies—supporting the safety and reliability of the devices.
Prior to the ImPACT approval, the FDA had cleared only devices that help determine the need for imaging after a head injury.
Football season has kicked off, and Friday night lights are shining for parents around the nation. Unfortunately, with football comes injuries, and the most common injuries discussed today are concussions. Even if your child doesn’t play football but is involved in another sport, you should know the definition of a concussion and what this means for your child.
A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the body, with a force transmitted to the head, causing an injury to the brain. Because kids are not fully physically developed, having thinner skulls and weaker neck muscles, they are more susceptible to concussions.
Concussions have been estimated to account for 9 percent of all high school athletic injuries. However, it is estimated that 50 percent to 75 percent of concussions among high school athletes go unreported. What is most alarming in youth sports is that those 13 and younger are more likely to receive a concussion, and most of those are not reported.
Before your children get involved in sports, it’s important that you and your kids are properly educated and know what to do if a concussion is suspected. This should start with a checklist of the basics:
▪ Does your child know how to recognize and report a suspected head injury?
▪ Does your child know how to express a head injury to a coach, parent or teammate?
▪ Does your child’s team or league have a concussion protocol?
▪ What type of physician (neurologist, family medicine or pediatrician) would you take your child to for the evaluation and treatment of a concussion?
Once your child has started playing, become vigilant about head injuries. If you suspect your child has suffered a hit to the head, watch for these common symptoms of a concussion:
▪ Confusion or the feeling of being “in a fog.”
▪ Dizziness or balance problems.
▪ Fatigue or drowsiness.
▪ Nausea and/or vomiting.
▪ Sensitivity to light and noise.
▪ Irritability or nervousness.
▪ Trouble concentrating.
If you think your child or adolescent has a concussion, there are a number of dos and don’ts to follow:
▪ Do stop playing – immediately!
▪ Do tell a coach, trainer, teammate, friend or parent.
▪ Do consult a physician.
▪ Do keep hydrated.
▪ Do get some rest.
▪ Don’t continue playing.
▪ Don’t return to sports activities without medical clearance.
▪ Don’t consume alcohol.
▪ Don’t drive.
The nation’s growing awareness of concussions in the last decade has helped pass legislation to improve the treatment and management of concussions, especially in young athletes. State law requires parents, coaches, athletic trainers and, in some states, athletes to provide education about the symptoms and risks of a concussion. During athletic events, an athlete exhibiting concussive symptoms must be immediately taken out of play and is not allowed to return until they have received clearance from a medical professional.
As a result of legislation and research findings, the “6 Steps to Safe Play” were developed. Of particular significance are the tests now available to test your child’s brain function before and after injury. If your teen participates in a school sport, the following “6 Steps to Safe Play” are recommended:
1. Your child should have a preseason baseline, which is completed with ImPACT, a neurocognitive computerized test for kids 13 and older.
2. Sideline testing with SCAT 3, King Devick or BESS should be available.
3. If your child is injured while playing, he or she should be re-tested with ImPACT.
4. If concussion symptoms and ImPACT indicate a possible concussion, immediately seek medical treatment at a concussion clinic.
5. Once cleared by the doctor, your child can return to play and return to learn.
6. The team’s athletic trainers should have access to the Concussion Injury Surveillance System, a tool used to track concussions.
If a concussion is left untreated or an athlete sustains multiple concussions, your child could suffer permanent brain injury. The inherent competitive nature of sports and culture to win at all costs may sometimes overshadow the need to call attention to reporting injuries. As a coach, parent, athlete and even a fan, we must encourage the reporting of head injuries within the sports culture. An athlete’s awareness of the signs, symptoms, and effects of a concussion can only improve the safety of our athletes. Educating all parties, particularly our youth athletes, has shown to increase concussion awareness and reporting, making it a vital component of sports safety this school year.
For more information, visit UConcussion.com.
Gillian Hotz, Ph.D., is the director of the Kidz Neuroscience Center at UHealth – the University of Miami Health System. For more information, visit UHealthSystem.com/patients/pediatrics.
With fans packing stadiums for Saturday’s Auburn and Alabama football games, one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be hot.
With thousands of people in close quarters and many of them drinking, medical professionals want you to make good choices when it comes to your health.
“Any big event, whether it’s a concert, whether it’s a football game, whether it’s a race at Talladega, you put a lot of people trying to have fun in the heat and you have multiple people getting sick each time,” said Dr. Matthew Delaney with UAB’s emergency services.
He says that if you get too hot, you should pay attention to your body’s symptoms. Signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion include nausea, confusion, a change in sweat, and chest pains. If you experience those symptoms, try to cool off immediately. You may even want to take a break indoors.
However, Dr. Delaney says it’s better to avoid overheating before it happens. To do that, drink plenty of liquids, but cap your alcohol intake.
“The effects of alcohol are greater when it’s hot, so maybe drink a little less than you normally would,” he said.
You should also try to stay in the shade as much as possible, and avoid the direct sunshine.
“It’s great to be excited and it’s great to have fun, but we just want people to use common sense,” Dr. Delaney said.
A new survey surprisingly found that many parents caring for a child’s concussion may inadvertently be making it worse.
Many think if a child gets a concussion, you should wake that child up every few hours at night to make sure they’re okay. Not true.
An estimated 2 million children will be treated in emergency rooms this year for sports-related concussions. A new national survey shows a vast majority of parents follow outdated advice when it comes to caring for concussions and their kids could be paying the price.
Kennedy Dierk, for example, had been playing soccer for 10 years, when, in a split second, everything changed. She bumped heads with another player and got a concussion, although her symptoms didn’t appear right away.
“It just progressively got worse and worse and worse throughout the week,” says Kennedy.
“It was a longer road back than we thought. It was a good 2 to 3 months before the headache dissipated,” says her mom, Dione Dierk.
Kennedy developed post-concussion syndrome, something Dr. Christopher Giza says can happen when the right steps aren’t taken immediately after injury.
“Getting proper advice about how to manage your activity early on reduces the likelihood by 15 to 20 percent of whether or not you develop post-concussion syndrome,” says Dr. Gize.
But a new national survey by UCLA Health reveals many parents don’t always act on professional advice
If a child shows symptoms of a concussion after one week, more than 3 in 4 parents say they’re likely to wake their child up throughout the night. That’s something doctors say only makes matters worse.
“Their headache is going to be worse; their memory’s going to be worse; their mood’s going to be worse. All those things that we monitor for concussion will get worse if we don’t let them sleep,” says Dr. Giza.
The survey also found 84 percent of parents would make kids refrain from any physical activity. But Dr. Giza says if the injury is stable and the activity is safe, kids should exercise after the first few days.
And they should remain social. More than half of parents were likely to take away electronic devices, but that’s not always necessary.
“We want to see them interact with their peers as much as they can. And so that may require some permissiveness in terms of electronic communication,” says Dr. Giza.
Doctors say kids should take it easy in the first few days after injury, but easing them back into their routines as quickly and safely as possible is important. If your child’s concussion symptoms linger for more than two weeks without improving, you may want to see a specialist.
School is back in session and along with it the fall sports season. Youth sports promote physical activity and camaraderie, and the lessons of team sports can last a lifetime.
But injuries are a reality with youth sports, and kids are especially vulnerable to head injuries and concussions. There has been a lot written about sports-related head injuries in the last few years, yet kids and parents alike often downplay symptoms of concussions and rush too quickly to get back to the field or court.
There has been a lot written about sports-related head injuries in the last few years, yet kids and parents alike often downplay symptoms of concussions and rush too quickly to get back to the field or court.
A new study points out the risk involved with returning to sports too soon after a head injury. Researchers from Arkansas followed 70 young athletes who came to a medical facility for treatment of a sports related concussion. The average age was 15½. Half of the young men and women were removed immediately from play, while the other half were allowed to continue playing. Neurocognitive testing as well as assessment of symptoms such as headache were done a week later then again a few weeks after the first assesment.
The group that was allowed to continuing playing despite concussion symptoms took twice as long to recover compared to the group that was removed from play immediately (44 days versus 22 days). Kids who were allowed to continue playing were also more likely to have a long recovery from concussion symptoms (more than three weeks) including headache, dizziness, impaired cognition, academic, and psychosocial problems. The authors concluded that kids recover from concussions significantly faster if they are removed from participation immediately after their injury compared to those who were allowed to continue playing.
The findings from this study are not surprising. More than 3 million sports or recreation-related concussions occur in the U.S. annually. Adolescents are at the greatest risk for sports-related concussions and recover much more slowly than adults for unknown reasons, but possibly because their brains are still growing and developing.
Research has shown that the injured brain loses its ability to protect itself from a second injury, making the risk of a short-term second impact potentially catastrophic, and the risk is amplified is children and adolescents.
The danger period after a first concussion is unknown but it is likely at least 10 days. But even weeks later, kids can have subtle effects of a concussion, including emotional and mental symptoms including irritability and frustration. The psychological effects of a concussion may even start weeks after the physical effects have resolved.
In 2013, The American Academy of Neurology released guidelines on the evaluation and management of sports concussions. The first recommendation of the guideline is that an athlete suspected of having a concussion should immediately be removed from play and should not be allowed to return to play until evaluated by a trained health-care professional with training in both the diagnosis and management of concussions.
The guideline further recommends that high-school age or younger athletes should be treated much more “conservatively” than college or adult athletes, acknowledging that growing children and adolescents are at much higher risk of serious brain injury.
There is no evidence that any medications or other treatments hasten recovery over simple rest.
For boys, the risk of sports concussion is greatest with football and rugby, followed by hockey and soccer, while for girls the risk is highest with soccer and basketball.
Most sports injuries, such as a sprained ankle or broken wrist, are easily diagnosed and treated. But concussions may represent a far greater and longer-term risk. As a parent or coach, always put the player’s well being first and treat any head injury as a potentially serious injury.