It was just a walk-through practice, a half-speed routine designed to preserve our legs for the biggest game of our season, and then it happened. In the blink of an eye, my world was rocked. I was clocked on the front of my head by a clearing attempt from 10 yards away before falling flat onto my back, causing a whiplash effect as my head hit the turf, essentially banging my head twice in a moment. Concussion. And just like that, my season was over.
Accidents happen in sports and other areas of life. And they can happen to your kids, too.
INJURY YOU CANNOT SEE
Chris Snoddy, an athletic trainer with STAR physical therapy in Franklin and a recipient of “Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer” by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, says he has seen improvements in diagnosing and treating youth concussions. Still, he says, a lack of awareness remains.
While football is commonly blamed for concussions, all contact sports carry concussion risks. There's even a push to ban younger kids from playing any type of tackle football in several states. Massachusetts is the latest state to introduce a bill to do so and it states, "No child in grade seven or under shall play, practice, or otherwise participate in organized tackle football." But, parents are concerned it would mean for a push to ban other sports with high risks of concussion injuries, too, such as soccer, hockey, etc.
My concussions came through soccer. But ice hockey, bicycling, rugby or even a plain, old home mishap can be the culprit.
No matter how concussions come about, though, they are not fun. What’s most difficult is the fact that a brain injury cannot be seen. There are different degrees of severity for concussions, but even a mild one is no laughing matter. Recovery takes more time — and patience — than most think.
For the kid who encounters concussion, life becomes a bleak sort of dream in which the simplest task becomes a monumental obstacle. A concussion is strange for patient and parent; the kid is mentally different, but he looks OK. It’s easy for parents to underestimate what’s going on. It’s easy for parents to push too soon.
“The big part about treating concussions is insisting on rest,” Snoddy says. “Many parents don’t understand that if their child gets a concussion he needs to take a day or two off, maybe longer, and get away from blue screens, doing homework, etc.”
If your child suffers a concussion in a practice or a game, you should insist on complete shutdown during the following 24 – 48 hours for the best outcome. Listen to the doctor when he says turn off the noise and stimulation of the world around your child, turn down the lights, etc.
Sometimes parents and athletes deny what’s going on because they don’t want to admit an injury … or stop playing.
“Oh, it’s just a little headache,” or, “Oh, I can go to school today,” or, “I want to get back in the game,” only to discover that the smallest details of life are difficult to manage.
Every so often an older kid you meet might brag about all of the concussions he’s endured growing up in sports … as though it’s normal and to be admired. It’s not.
Just one concussion puts a child at risk for “second impact syndrome,” in which the effects of the second brain injury are more magnified than they would have been had there been no first concussion. Multiple concussions increase the likelihood of permanent problems. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, a child who has had two concussions has a threefold greater risk of the same injury happening again. It’s nothing to mess around with.
Sports can be among the best experiences in a growing kid’s life, but safety is a crucial part of the journey. It’s important to note that a brain is a terrible thing to waste; if your child suffers a concussion, a serious discussion should occur about whether continuing to play or not is worth it.
Learn more about youth concussions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Heads Up” page at cdc.gov/headsup.