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How Concussions Impact Children and Adolescents

Updated on: 11/13/2019

Each year, an estimated 3.8 million concussions related to sports or recreational activities occur in the United States. Many people who suffer a concussion – which is technically classified as a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) – are able to make a recovery and return to their regular daily lives in a reasonable amount of time. But on the flip side, at least 125,000 people each year are considered permanently disabled as a result of their traumatic brain injuries, showing just how serious these types of head injuries can really be in the long run.

About 10 percent of all athletes who participate in contact sports – such as football, basketball and soccer – sustain concussions on a yearly basis nationwide. An estimated 41 percent of athletes who suffered some form of concussion resume participating in sports too soon, which can have serious consequences and add to the complexity of dealing with and recovering from a head injury.

Second impact syndrome (SIS) is a classification of head injury that results when a person suffers a concussion and then suffers another concussion shortly after. According to multiple sources, 63 percent of all concussions occur in football, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of the sport and the attention that football has gotten in recent years regarding head injuries.

Symptoms of Concussions in Child Athletes

An athlete who sustains a concussion is four-to-six times more likely to sustain a second concussion. If a person suffers second impact syndrome, there is a good chance that person will have to undergo a substantially greater level of rehabilitative treatment. Some signs that may indicate a child has suffered a traumatic brain injury include:

  • Dazed or stunned look
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Clumsiness
  • Delayed reaction time

Additional possible symptoms of a concussion may include; headache, nausea, dizziness, fuzzy vision and or change in sleep. In some cases, symptoms don’t improve and may even worsen over time leading to a chronic condition called post-concussive syndrome. It is unclear why some people don’t recover as well from concussions as others do, although prior head injuries tend to make people more vulnerable.

With students returning to school this fall and practices for football and other sports in full swing, the topic of sports-related head injuries will almost certainly be back in the news and a hot topic for discussion among parents soon. Almost 60 percent of high school students in the United States participating in organized sports and the number of youths involved growing each year, the management of concussions in athletes is more than likely to increase.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by direct or indirect impact to the head. Sports and other recreational activities are the third-leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) for children and adolescents, according to data presented by the Mayo Clinic. Team and contact sports such as football and ice hockey have the highest incidence of concussion, followed by soccer, wrestling, basketball, field hockey, baseball and softball.

Despite their classification as a “minor” traumatic brain injury, concussions are truly serious brain injuries that have a significant influence on the brain’s ability to function at its normal capacity. The key to recovery from a concussion is both physical and mental rest. After your child’s head injury, your child risks other complications if he or she returns to sports and other activities before the brain has healed.

Another blow to the head while the initial concussion is healing can occasionally result in fatal brain swelling. To protect your child from head injuries, insist on appropriate and properly fitted protective equipment such has a helmet, during sports and other activities. Educating your children on the risks of any mild bump or blow to the head that could lead to a concussion is also encouraged, as well as ensuring that your child’s athletic coaches are trained and educated on preventing children from suffering head injuries in the course of athletics.

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