Sports are a great way for children and teens to stay healthy while learning important team-building skills. But there are risks when young athletes receive an injury such as a concussion and don’t recognize the dangers of receiving such an injury and pushing their limits.
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Contrary to popular belief, concussions don’t just happen to professional athletes. Adolescents are more likely than adults to get a concussion and take longer to recover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that 173,285 sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, among children and adolescents are treated in U.S. emergency departments each year. During sports and recreation activities, concussions may result from a fall or from players colliding with each other, the ground, or with obstacles, such as a goalpost. Concussions can occur, however, in any organized or unorganized sport or recreational activity, as well as from events such as a motor vehicle accident.
Sometimes people do not recognize that even a “ding,” or what seems to be mild bump or blow to the head can cause a concussion. As a result, they may not receive necessary medical attention at the time of the injury. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.
It is not always easy to know if someone has a concussion. Symptoms of a concussion range from mild to severe and can last for hours, days, weeks, or even months. It’s important to know that you don’t have to lose consciousness to have a concussion. Educate your child on the symptoms to look out for so they can alert an adult and get evaluated by a healthcare professional. It’s always best to err on the safe side and have your child evaluated.
A person who might have a concussion needs to immediately stop any kind of activity or sport. Being active again too soon increases the person’s risk of having a more serious brain injury. Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion. It is very important to allow yourself time to get better and to slowly return to your regular activities. Some people recover within a few hours, while others take a few weeks to recover, depending on the severity. Always follow the doctor’s instructions carefully.
Things you and your child can do to help minimize the risk of a concussion:
- Wear helmets and use protective gear when playing sports, riding bicycles or doing other strenuous activities.
- Make sure protective equipment, like a helmet, fits properly and is well-maintained. All required protective equipment should be worn consistently.
- Know your children’s school or sports league’s concussion policy. If they don’t have one, encourage the school or league to create one.
- Encourage young athletes to follow the rules of play and to practice good sportsmanship at all times.