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Playing a contact sports will always run the risk of getting a concussion, but that doesn't mean sports should be avoided. Being well-informed about these injuries is essential to safety, especially for children.
Concussive injuries are getting more attention these days, especially in the sports arena. A 2013 report from Washington's Committee of Sports-Related Concussions in Youth brings to light concerns about the games kids engage in and potential consequences like brain injury. The key to keeping kids safe and active at the same time is education. The more parents know, the better equipped they are to make informed decisions regarding their child's health.
A Little About Concussions
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury. While that sounds bad, most of the effects are temporary. The major problem with sports related concussions is the cumulative effect. Every concussion causes some type of brain trauma. Each one needs time to heal, but for an active kid hitting the field each day, that may not happen. Successive blows can lead to fatal brain swelling and long-term injury. A child responds to concussive injury differently than adults. Concussions in children can go unrecognized, as kids are generally less aware of their body, so they may ignore minor symptoms like headache or dizziness. They stay in the game despite signs of post-concussion syndrome - persistent symptoms of brain injury such as: - Headache - Dizziness - Mood changes - Difficulty thinking clearly - Memory Loss - Short attention span
Sports with the Highest Risk
- Football. The NFL-funded report by the Washington committee claims there are approximately 6.3 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures - a collective term for practices and games. Concussion training is becoming more common in youth football thanks to a program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This training includes learning how to avoid using the head as a contact point.
- Ice Hockey. From body checks to hard falls, it carries a real risk of concussion. Teaching kids to be intuitive as they play helps reduce injury. Advanced technology is lending a hand with special sensors in helmets that teach kids to shift their body before the collusion to protect their heads.
- Lacrosse. Anytime kids are swinging sticks in the air, there is a risk of head injury. Helmet safety is critical. Headgear must be secure and safety equipment should include a mouth guard. Instructing team players on the importance of safe stick handling will reduce incidence of injury as well. Is the risk of concussion enough that parents should keep their kids out of sports? Not at all. Being a member of a team comes with many benefits. From learning the power of competition to getting to run and play with other kids, youth sports are an important part of childhood. Being aware of the risks and taking precautions will improve safety on and off the field. Photo Credit: Army Medicine via Flickr.