Whether it’s from football, soccer or even cheerleading, the number of concussions in student athletes is on the rise. So, what can you do to protect your kids from getting brain injuries while playing sports?
How dangerous are concussions?
Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries that are caused by a blow or bump to the head or body resulting in the brain moving back and forth rapidly in the skull.
Concussions can have long-term negative health effects including:
- Memory problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Emotional or mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
And in some cases, especially when multiple concussions occur, the cumulative effect can include the loss of speech, the ability to walk and the ability to perform other normal functions.
Which sports have the most head injuries?
Concussions have become a major concern in organized sports with an estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports-related concussions occurring each year nationwide.
In the past, football has been singled out as the main culprit for head injuries. However, as more and more student athletes participate in different competitive sports, these numbers have changed.
“The popular contact sports are the sports that I see the most concussions in such as soccer and football. However, concussions can occur in all sports,” said Dr. Caitlyn Mooney, a pediatrician at University Health System who specializes in sports medicine. “I also see concussions in combat sports such as boxing and wrestling, as well as many in the equestrian sports such as rodeo and horseback riding.”
Even more surprising is the number of female athletes who receive concussions, with some research indicating that girls are more susceptible to head injuries in sports than boys.
“Some studies on concussions have shown that women may be at greater risk of sustaining a sports-related concussion than men,” Dr. Mooney said. “However, that is still an area where more research needs to be done to determine if this is true. It is also possible that women athletes may be more likely to report a concussion that they sustain than a male athlete. Other thoughts are that weaker neck muscles may make women more likely to have a concussion.”
How can I protect my kid from concussions when they play sports?
Here in Texas, where football is king, the state is working hard to protect student athletes from concussions by passing laws and regulations and sponsoring studies into the number and effect of brain injuries in sports.
However, as parents of student athletes there’s a lot you can do to prevent concussions including:
- Make sure your child has appropriately fitted equipment for their sport including helmets.
- Ensure your child is using proper technique in their sports especially in tasks such as tackling.
- Make sure your child is developmentally ready for a sport.
- Never let your child play when injured.
- Remember to talk to your kids about the seriousness of head injuries and the long-term impacts they could have.
- Stress the importance of having your kids tell an adult if they suspect they have injured themselves while playing a sport.
And, of course, the most important thing is to seek immediate medical attention for your child if you suspect he or she has a concussion, and do not let them return to play until they are cleared by their doctor.