Young athletes who engage in a ton of physical activity, like contact sports, are not immune to concussions. At times, certain collisions in sports can shake the brain inside the skull, possibly causing it injury. When the brain is jarred within the skull due to outward trauma, like falls or blows to the head, it is known as a concussion. Symptoms can be mild or severe, and can include disruptions in sleep, mood, cognition and physical issues (like headaches or problems with balance).
Fortunately, a young child can learn to take precautions that will help him/her diminish the chances of a concussion. Of course, they’ll need the support of an adult like you! There’s no guarantee your favorite quarterback will avoid a head-first tackle, but being knowledgeable about the ramifications is a step toward minimizing the chances of a concussion.
Get proactive. Take your young football star or basketball MVP to a general physician and chiropractic physician for a preseason physical. It’s a great way to get the conversation going about physical health and the possibility of head injuries. The better your child can identify the symptoms of a concussion either in himself/herself or recognize them in a teammate, the greater the chances it will be reported and treated quickly.
Stick together. David Marshall, the medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta, suggests his young patients practice the buddy system: have your child ask his teammate when he experiences a blow, if he sees stars or feels light-headed. Then let someone know. Marshall says more kids, parents, teachers, administrators and coaches are becoming aware of concussions experienced by young athletes. Early detection, care and rehabilitation are extremely important.
Play fair. Talk to your kids’ and their coaches about proper sportsmanship. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests “coaches should strive to reduce the number of impacts to players’ heads, and should offer instruction in proper tackling techniques.” The AAP also recommends neck strengthening to help reduce injuries.
Suit up. Wearing proper gear is important, especially in tackle sports like football. While helmets do not prevent concussions from occurring, they can help protect your child from a serious head injury.
The benefits that come with children playing sports cannot be discounted. From participating in the spirit of competition to enjoying positive recreation, parents realize sports are central to any athletic child’s curriculum. Taking the right precautions, discussing the facts with your athletes, getting educated and being aware in the moment are elements that will help protect your child in the face of heading the ball in soccer, a head-first tackle in football or a baseball home-plate collision. Cheer on!