While anywhere from 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that nearly half of athletes (47 percent) who suffer concussive blows don’t report their symptoms.
If you have children in sports, it’s important for you, as a parent, as well as them, to know the signs of a concussion and the laws that protect young athletes.
After a blow to the head, young athletes may be unaware or even ignore the most common symptoms as a simple headache or dizziness. Yet the danger can be considerable and even potentially life-threatening if an athlete with a concussion continues to play or receives a second hit before he or she has fully recovered from the first impact.
Besides headaches and dizziness, concussions can lead to nausea, blurry vision, trouble focusing and concentrating, mental “fatigue,” depression, or changes in sleep patterns. What may surprise you is that fewer than 10 percent of sport-related concussions actually involve a loss of consciousness.
Also, while people most often think of football as high risk for concussion, which is true for male athletes, they may not realize that soccer is the highest risk sport for concussion among female athletes.
Some studies even suggest that females are twice as likely to sustain a concussion as males when playing the same sport, such as soccer and basketball.
To protect young athletes, concussion legislation has been passed in forty-eight states in recent years – all part of the shift that has put the spotlight on sports concussions.
According to the CDC, most concussion in sports laws include three action steps:
In the last few months, Ohio has joined the ranks by passing a law to keep kids safer after suffering from this typically short-lived brain injury that is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head.
Ohio House Bill 143, which went into effect in late April, 2013, does the following:
This new law ensures that if there is a suspected concussion, the young athlete is immediately pulled out of play. It also ensures proper evaluation by an authorized healthcare professional prior to returning to play.
“There is growing evidence that undiagnosed, unrecognized or poorly treated concussions can significantly prolong the recovery period. This can take anywhere from the expected short, one- to two-week recovery to months or possibly even longer,” says Richard Figler, MD, a Cleveland Clinic primary care sports and exercise medicine physician and concussion specialist. “This new law is meant to protect the athlete.”
He adds, “If children play sports, they should know the signs and symptoms of concussion. When in doubt, they should sit it out. I tell young athletes, ‘you only get one brain — protect it.’”