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Sports-Related Concussions in Children and Youths

By Taylor Smith 

Summertime means more outdoor time for children and teens, and sports camps are a popular way to fill that free time. While exercise and play are an important part of every child’s development, it’s important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of sports-related concussions. 

Head injuries are not always obvious, and physicians have reported children experiencing symptoms of a concussion from forms of low-impact play like bouncy houses and trampolines. Equipment used in high-contact sports like football and lacrosse do their part in shielding a child from more extreme injuries, but even with well-fitting, modern equipment, serious head injuries can still take place. In most incidents of concussion, blood flow is temporarily suspended from reaching the brain. Athletes may later report headaches, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and/or feeling groggy or sluggish. 

Doctors say that all athletes suspected of a concussion should not return to play until they are free of concussion symptoms. The risk associated with sustaining a second concussion (known as second-impact syndrome) while not fully recovered from the first is severe. A second hit or jolt to the head can land an athlete in the emergency room or even result in death. The reasoning is that the brain swells dramatically. Although second-impact syndrome is rare, players will potentially be left with life-altering brain injuries. 

Even if a child reports no feelings of nausea or confusion, a parent or guardian may observe unusual forgetfulness in a child, clumsy movement, mood changes, and slowed speech. Historically, parents were taught to keep a child suspected of a head injury fully alert and awake, however, most modern-day sports physicians state that sleep and brain rest are the most important tools for recovering from a sports-related concussion. Parents who fear that their child plays too many video games will be happy to know that screen time of any type keeps the brain very active and working hard processing and reacting to information; therefore, reduced computer, television, and smart device time is central to a child experiencing true brain rest and recovery. 

Worried parents need not prevent their children and teenagers from getting out on the sports field this summer. Playing a sport and staying active have been dramatically shown to improve overall mood, disposition, health, social skills, reduction in stress levels, teamwork, collaboration, and responsibility — skill sets which dramatically translate into academic performance and achievement. Teach your child to never ignore an injury, and chances are it will be a safe and happy summer for everyone.