Children and teens who participate in impact sports, such as football, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, boxing and rugby are at greatest risk for concussion, which is more than just a blow to the head. It’s the most common form of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The inside story? During a concussion, the brain bounces back and forth within the skull, causing short-term and possibly ongoing chemical changes in the brain that cause symptoms such as loss of balance, severe headaches, dizziness, double or blurred vision and trouble sleeping.
Fortunately, a concussion isn’t usually life threatening. But the effects can be devastating, especially if student athletes ignore symptoms and continue to play or try to do their regular activities and then experience another concussion.
Mounting evidence shows that if a child or teen has just one concussion in his/her life, the risk of early onset dementia changes very little. But if children get two or more concussions, their risk for premature brain degeneration increases significantly.
“As a parent, you play an important role in identifying symptoms to determine if your child might have had a concussion and preventing another concussion, which is so important,” says Ashley Bassett, MD, a sport medicine surgeon and director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey.
To protect your student athlete from concussion or other serious brain injury, Dr. Bassett offers this hard-hitting advice.
Protect your head. “Prevention is key. If your child or teen participates in a high-risk sport, such as football or soccer, and has returned to play, talk to them about specific prevention strategies. For example, tell them to avoid leading with their helmet when tackling or frequent ‘heading’ of the soccer ball,” Dr. Bassett says. Remind your child to avoid hits in the head during sports and other activities, even if they’re wearing a helmet.
Make helmets a must. Encourage your child or teen to always wear a properly-fitting helmet during practice and games and when bike riding, in-line skating and skiing. Although helmets aren’t designed to prevent concussion, wearing a helmet can provide a measure of protection from a serious brain or head injury in case of a fall or collision.
Talk about concussion symptoms. Talk to your child athlete about symptoms of concussion, such as dizziness, balance problems, headache or pressure in the head, nausea or vomiting, feeling sluggish or hazy. Encourage him or her to stop playing if he or she experiences concussion symptoms, even during an important game. “Encourage your student athlete to report symptoms to their coach or trainer immediately,” Dr. Bassett says.
There’s no treatment for concussion other than resting until symptoms subside. “The best way to prevent serious injury is for student athletes to give themselves time to fully recover before resuming sports,” Dr. Bassett says.
The Concussion Center at The Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey
If you think your student athlete may have experienced a concussion, we’re here to help.
The Concussion Center at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey (OINJ) provides baseline testing to establish cognitive functioning before a season begins. If your student athlete suffers from a suspected concussion, he or she can be retested to determine if there are any cognitive deficits.
In New Jersey, only a physician with specialized concussion training can diagnose or rule out a concussion. OINJ’s specially-trained concussion physicians can appropriately diagnose patients who may have suffered a concussion and recommend the best treatment plan. To make an appointment, call us at 908-684-3005.