by Renée McCabe
“Every 25 seconds, or 1.35 million times a year, a young athlete suffers a sports injury severe enough to go to the emergency room,” said Renée McCabe, RN, Injury Prevention and Safety Program Manager at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia.
According to a Safe Kids Worldwide report that studied the 14 most popular sports, concussions account for 163,000 of those ER visits, or 12 percent. That is a concussion-related ER visit every three minutes.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a brain injury. Concussions are caused by a bump or blow to the head.
You can’t see a concussion. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the injury or may not appear or be noticed until days or weeks after the injury. If your child reports any symptoms of concussion, or if you notice the symptoms yourself, seek medical attention right away.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Signs observed by parents or guardians
If your child has experienced a bump or blow to the head during a game or practice, look for any of the following signs and symptoms of a concussion:
- appears dazed or stunned
- is confused about assignment or position
- forgets an instruction
- is unsure of game, score, or opponent
- moves clumsily
- answers questions slowly
- loses consciousness (even briefly)
- shows behavior or personality changes
- can’t recall events before hit or fall
- can’t recall events after hit or fall
Symptoms reported by athlete
- headache or “pressure” in head
- nausea or vomiting
- balance problems or dizziness
- double or blurry vision
- sensitivity to light
- sensitivity to noise
- feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
- concentration or memory problems
- does not “feel right”
How can you help your child prevent a concussion?
Every sport is different, but there are steps your children can take to protect themselves from injuries, such as concussions.
- Ensure that they follow their coach’s rules for safety and the rules of the sport.
- Encourage them to always practice good sportsmanship.
- Make sure they wear the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards, and eye and mouth guards). Protective equipment should fit properly, be well maintained, and worn consistently and correctly.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
What should you do if you think your child has a concussion?
- Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child to return to sports.
- Keep your child out of play. Concussions take time to heal. Don’t let your child return to play until a health care professional clears your child for active play. Children who return to play too soon while the brain is still healing risk a greater chance of having a second concussion. Repeat or later concussions can be very serious. They can cause permanent brain damage, affecting your child for a lifetime.
- Tell your child’s coach about any recent concussion. Coaches should know if your child had a recent concussion. Your child’s coach may not know about a concussion your child received in another sport or activity unless you advise the coach.
Dr. Todd Maugans, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, is an expert in sports-related concussions. Safe Kids Greater Augusta, led by the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading killer of children ages 1 to 19. Safe Kids Greater Augusta is a member of the Safe Kids Worldwide network. To find out more about the local Safe Kids program, call 706-721-7606, or visit augustahealth.org/safekids. Check out more safety tips and the Ultimate Car Seat Guide at SafeKids.org.
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