Heads Up!!

Kids and school athletics. There are so many issues to talk about it could make your head explode, you should pardon the expression.

Over countless seasons of soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and water polo (and I’ve probably forgotten a game or two) all three of our kids had some wonderful and enriching team experiences.

AND we occasionally had to deal with screaming coaches, screaming parents, abusive officials, unreasonable practice schedules, macho jock attitudes, disregard for health, disrespect … the list goes on and on.

But as a doctor and a parent the one thing that truly scares me about kids and sports is the risk of head injury.  I’ve said it so many times over so many years, I think my three must repeat it in their sleep — “you can fix a broken arm or a broken leg, but you can’t fix a broken brain”.  Thank god my children never played football.

So with that in mind, I’m reprinting an article from KidsHealth.com for you here.  It was featured in a longer piece called …

10 Kids' Health Issues to Watch in 2010

The Impact of Concussions

Some sports injuries are obvious — a fracture, a torn ligament, a swollen joint. But concussions — one of the most common and most dangerous injuries — can be harder to detect and care for.

In the wake of head injuries among some of the NFL’s most high-profile players, concussions and their treatment have become big news. Indeed, responding to criticism over its handling of head injuries in the past, the NFL just announced important changes to how the league will handle concussions, now stating that athletes must immediately be removed from play if they have amnesia, poor balance, and an abnormal neurological examination, whether or not those symptoms quickly pass.

But the NFL came up short regarding symptoms like dizziness and headache, saying players can return to their sport unless the problems are “persistent.”

What This Means to You

Because the treatment of concussions relies heavily on symptom reporting by those who incur them rather than more obvious signs, many athletes have been encouraged to “play through” head injuries. This is especially troubling for younger athletes, in whom repeat concussions can be serious. Rules regarding concussion management can vary, if they exist at all, on the high school, college, and amateur levels.

So it’s important to prevent concussions from happening in the first place and, if they do, to know the signs and how to make sure a child recovers completely.

To practice prevention, childproof a house with young kids. And all kids should wear appropriate headgear and safety equipment when biking, blading, skateboarding, snowboarding or skiing, and playing contact sports.

A child with a concussion may lose consciousness, but this doesn’t occur in every case. Other signs of a concussion include feeling confused and dazed, temporary amnesia, blurred vision, headache, slurred speech, and difficulty concentrating.

The brain needs time to heal after a concussion, so it’s very important for kids to wait until all symptoms have ended before returning to normal activities. They shouldn’t participate in sports or other physical activities until a doctor says that it’s safe. Even kids who plead that they feel fine or are urged by competitive coaches or teammates should not play until a doctor has given the OK.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So please, dear mamas, heed this warning. Take special care of those little brains, because once they’re damaged they can’t be fixed.  Unlike most other cells in our bodies, brain cells don’t re-grow (though to be fair, they sometimes can re-learn, smart little buggers).

Chances are, your kid is not headed for a career as a celebrity athlete.  Whatever the future holds, it’s more likely to require a happy, healthy, intact brain. Do what you can to keep it that way.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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One response to “Heads Up!!”

  1. Soccer Season Is Here — Watch Those Heads!

    […] case you missed some of our older stuff on head injuries and prevention, check these posts out: http://mamasoncall.com/2010/02/heads-up/ and http://mamasoncall.com/2010/04/top-5-kid-emergencies-call-911/  Email This […]

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