Football season? Watch your head

Football season is upon us. While that usually means the promise of cooler temperatures and the pleasure of cheering from bleacher seats, it’s also worth keeping in mind the risk of head injuries.

It’s a major problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the number of sports-related concussions in the United States at some 1.6 million to 3.8 million each year. Another study puts the odds of an athlete in a contact sport suffering a concussion as high as 19 percent per season.

“Our brain is our most valuable resource,” said Dr. Lillian Liao, assistant professor of surgery at UT Health San Antonio, and medical director of pediatric trauma and burns at University Hospital. “When our brain is injured, our body will not function well. Sports-related head injuries affect nearly 250,000 children who present to the emergency room, and countless others who go unrecognized.”

So what can parents and coaches do? Know the symptoms of concussion. If any symptoms are seen after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, the person should be kept out of play that day, and until he or she can be evaluated and cleared by a health care professional trained to evaluate concussion.

“An injured brain that is not allowed to fully recover can cause sudden death when injured again,” Liao added. “We would never let a kid with a broken leg go back to playing football or soccer until the bone is healed. Why would we even consider doing that to our most valuable resource?”

And everyone should be aware that concussions are serious — even those that seem to be a minor bump on the head. Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.

More information about concussions can be found here:

CDC Heads Up

CDC concussion in high school sports tool kit

Get a heads up on concussion site (CDC Foundation)

Mayo Clinic concussion site

Brain Injury Association of America