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Youth Sports Concussions
Contact the Violence and Injury Prevention Section
Violence and Injury Prevention Section
4052 Bald Cypress Way
Tallahassee, FL 32399
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. A blow elsewhere on the body can cause a concussion even if an athlete does not hit his/her head directly. Concussions can range from mild to severe, and athletes can get a concussion even if they are wearing a helmet.
Concussions can occur in any sport, but more often are the result of ice hockey and football injuries. Equestrian sports also have a high rate of concussion, as do boxing, soccer, bicycling, martial arts, wrestling, and lacrosse.
In 2014 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that at least 2.87 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations or deaths were related to a TBI, including over 837,000 of these health events among children.
During 2010–2016, an average of 283,000 U.S. emergency department (ED) visits per year for sports and recreation–related traumatic brain injuries (SRR-TBIs) occurred among children. Approximately 45% of these injuries were associated with contact sports. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, March 29). TBI-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths (EDHDs). https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/data/tbi-edhd.html.
When to Seek Help
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) you should watch for the following two factors among your athletes to help recognize a concussion:
- A forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body that results in rapid movement of the head
- Any changes in the athlete’s behavior, thinking, or physical functioning
The CDC also uses four categories to classify symptoms of concussions:
Difficulty thinking clearly
Sleeping more than usual
Feeling slowed down
Nausea or vomiting (early on)
Sleeping less than usual
Sensitivity to noise or light
Trouble falling asleep
Difficulty remembering new information
Feeling tired, having no energy
Nervousness or anxiety
It is important for anyone who has a head injury to be evaluated by a doctor, even if emergency care is not required. The Mayo Clinic lists potential complications that may arise from a concussion, these include:
Epilepsy: People who have had a concussion double their risk of developing epilepsy within the first five years after the injury.
Post-concussion syndrome: Some people begin having post-concussion symptoms—such as headaches, dizziness and difficulty thinking—a few days after a concussion. These symptoms may continue for weeks to a few months after a concussion.
Post-traumatic headaches: Some people experience headaches within a week to a few months after a brain injury.
Post-traumatic vertigo: Some people experience a sense of spinning or dizziness for days, weeks or months after a brain injury.
Second impact syndrome: Experiencing a second concussion before signs and symptoms of a first concussion have resolved may result in rapid and usually fatal brain swelling.
Coaches, parents and athletes all play a role in preventing concussions. The CDC provides a free online training for anyone to learn more: HEADS UP to Youth Sports. Some ways in which they can do this it through:
Education: Before the first practice, coaches and school officials should talk to the parents and athletes about the dangers of concussions and potential long-term consequences of concussions.
Monitor the health of the athletes: Coaches should ask if an athlete has ever had a concussion and insist that athletes are medically evaluated and are in a condition to participate. Parents, athletes and coaches should inquire if the school or league conducts pre-season baseline testing.
Insist that safety comes first: Coaches and parents should encourage the athletes to follow the rules of play and to practice good sportsmanship at all times. Coaches should teach and have the athletes practice safe playing techniques. Remind athletes to tell coaching staff right away if they suspect they have a concussion or that a teammate has a concussion.
Teach athletes that it is not smart to play with a concussion: After a concussion, rest will be imperative. Parents and/or coaches should not let others pressure the injured athlete to return to play before they are ready. At the same time, do not let the athlete convince you that they are “just fine.”
Keep track of concussion: Coaches should work with other school or league officials to review injuries that occurred during the season. Discuss with others any needs for better concussion prevention or response preparations.