Each year, approximately 30-45 million children & adolescents between the ages of 6-18 participate in organized sports. The young brain is especially susceptible to concussions. In fact, sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children ages 8-13. Despite that large ratio, experts say that certain terms have minimized the serious nature of the injury. These terms, which are used to describe a hit, include “ding” or “bell ringer” and should be replaced by the actual medical term, mild traumatic brain injury.
Virtually no sport is free of concussion hazard. A concussion is caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to lose consciousness to sustain a concussion. Approximately 90% of concussions involve no loss of consciousness or only a brief disruption of mental alertness. You don’t even have to hit your head — a whiplash injury can cause one. Recognizing concussion symptoms in children can be more complicated than in adults, since a child may not be capable of articulating certain symptoms of a concussion, such as feeling “in a fog” or vertigo. Other symptoms, including irritability, may be mistakenly interpreted as a behavioral issue rather than a sign of a brain injury. Some competitive young athletes are so eager to get back on the playing field that they deny having any symptoms, or they downplay their symptoms, in order to get back in the game. Others may exaggerate their symptoms to avoid returning to school. It’s best to err on the side of caution and take all reported symptoms seriously. Find a balance between returning too soon and sitting out too long is an important part of the plan for optimal recovery.
by Gina Stallone