How to protect your young athlete from concussion.

About 300,000 high school athletes suffer from concussions every year, and experts suspect many more go unreported. Younger athletes in middle and elementary schools are at risk as well. Repeated concussions can lead to brain damage, so it’s no wonder health professionals and parents are increasingly concerned about concussion prevention.

While football presents the highest risk of concussion, players in other sports aren’t immune. Soccer players who repeatedly “head” the ball, baseball players who dive headfirst for the base or collide with other players, basketball players who fall and hit their heads on the court, gymnasts who take a fall from the balance beam—all can suffer concussions. What can a parent do to protect their child?

While it’s impossible to head off every injury in sports, parents can take these precautions to help keep their athletic kids safe on the field or court.

Use recommended head gear, and make sure it fits. Even the best safety gear won’t protect your child if it doesn’t fit properly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips to make sure your child’s helmet is safe. Even the best helmet won’t completely prevent concussion, however; helmets are designed to prevent serious injury like skull fracture and internal head bleeding.

Speak to the coach. Find out their protocol for protecting kids from concussion. (If they don’t have one, find a different league or coach). And make sure the coach’s top priority is the safety of the kids, not winning at all costs. If your kid’s coach has a “gut it out and keep playing” philosophy, find a different team.

Know the symptoms of concussion. If your child suffers a blow to the head, watch for these symptoms:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory surrounding the event
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Ringing in the ears

If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, or loses consciousness at any point, take them to an emergency center for evaluation.

Even if your child shows no symptoms, if the blow to the head was significant, see a doctor anyway. Sometimes symptoms won’t occur until days later, when damage has already occurred. This is one time when you can’t be too cautious.

Talk to your child. Make sure they know the symptoms listed above, and make sure they are aware how serious a concussion can be (without frightening them). Without realizing the risk, kids will sometimes downplay their injuries so they can keep playing.

If your child suffers a concussion, allow recovery time. The greatest risk for long-term brain damage comes from “second impact syndrome”—a second concussion that occurs before the brain is fully healed. Most doctors recommend strict physical and mental rest for 24 to 48 hours, and a return to light exercise and mental activity after this.

Participating in sports offers kids a wide range of physical, social and psychological benefits. With careful precautions, they can reap these benefits and stay safe, too.

For more resources on concussion and sports safety, visit https://www.covenanthealthcare.com/cmg/sportsmedicineresources.

Posted Date: 11/12/2018


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