Sports Related Concussions in Young Athletes

Since 1999, an extensive amount of research and media coverage has been dedicated to sports related concussions. To this day, it is still a hot topic in the media and in medicine. Given the extensive research that has been done, we now have a better understanding of the symptomatic course and risk of potential long-term complications from concussions.

A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when the brain is violently shaken and hits the inside of the skull. Injury can be from a blow to the head, a fall, or even just a jolt to the head.

Because brain development is in its most important stages between the ages of 8-17, young athletes are faced with a unique challenge as their brains may be more susceptible to the effects of a concussion.

Many parents may not realize that a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury and while in most cases a mild concussion does not lead to permanent damage, it can disrupt the wiring of the brain and warrents prompt, proper medical attention. Neurological assessments including CAT scans and MRIs are usually done to determine the extent of the brain injury.

When recovering from the injury, it is important to rest the brain in order for it to heal. Cognitive activities that stimulate the brain like watching TV, playing on the computer, or even long periods of reading or school work should be limited. Delayed healing or recurrent blows to the head before the healing process has completed can result in long term effect such as headaches, poor attention span, sleep disruption, memory loss and emotional unbalances.

The goal is to return the young athlete back to doing what they love, but in a manner that is as safe as posible. When the athlete has returned to playing sports, the best way to protect them is to always have them wear appropriate gear. This includes a helmet when participating in an activity or sport that could lead to a jolt to the head.

Remember - no game is more important than a child's health.