Sports-Related Concussion: Understanding the Risks, Signs & Symptoms

Every sport carries some level of risk. In addition to football, sport-related concussions are common in other youth and high school sports including soccer, lacrosse, basketball, hockey, and cheerleading.

Not all concussions can be prevented, but some may be avoided. Helmets should be worn for any riding activities or collision sports. Athletes should be taught safe playing techniques and to follow the rules of the game. Most importantly, every athlete needs to know how crucial it is to let their coach, athletic trainer, or parent know if they have hit their head or have symptoms of a head injury—even if it means stopping play.

Teach your child to never ignore a head injury, no matter how minor. If he reports one or more symptoms of concussion listed on the next page, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, keep him out of play and seek medical attention right away.

To better understand the symptoms of concussion and the risk for long-term complications, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:

  • All athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis of concussion; determine the need for any specialized tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or neuropsychological tests; and decide when it is OK for the athlete to return to play.
  • Athletes should rest their bodies and their brains until they are no longer experiencing any symptoms of concussion. Physical and cognitive exertion, such as homework, playing video games, texting, using a computer, or watching TV, may worsen symptoms.
  • Symptoms of a concussion usually resolve in 7 to 10 days, but some athletes may take weeks or months to fully recover.
  • Neuropsychological testing can provide objective data to athletes and their families, but testing is just one step in the complete management of sport-related concussions.
  • There is no evidence proving the safety or efficacy of any medication in treating a concussion or using mouth guards to prevent concussion.
  • Retirement from contact or collision sports should be considered for an athlete who has sustained multiple concussions or who has suffered symptoms for longer than 3 months. Negative effects from concussions can accumulate from each event.

All things considered, the dangers of inactivity surpass the dangers of playing a sport. Aside from having fun and staying active, playing a sport can help your child develop leadership skills, self-confidence, and teamwork and deal with success and failure. In addition, by participating in sports, children often find exercise enjoyable and are more likely to establish lifelong exercise habits.

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