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Knock, Knock: Repeated Concussions Can Cause Mental Problems for Football Players.

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The risk of permanent brain damage is extremely low in children who sustain just one concussion during the junior high or high school years, says Ricardo Senno, MD, attending physician in the traumatic brain injury program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"The brain repairs itself from one concussion," he tells WebMD. "The issue is multiple concussions, and the severity of the injury. If you get concussion after concussion after concussion, you could have mild ... impairment," consisting of deficits in memory and concentration later in life.

"If a child is prone to multiple concussions, he or she probably shouldn't play that sport," Senno tells WebMD when asked to comment on the study. He recommends parents, coaches, and physicians think about taking a child out of a particular activity if he or she sustains two or more concussions in a season. Unfortunately, says Jordan, no data exist to help determine when someone might be too young to start playing football.

The best way to prevent permanent brain or nerve injury is to "minimize the risk of multiple injuries to the head," says Senno. "Wear the appropriate helmet, not just during competitive sports but recreational sports as well, such as skiing or bike riding." Seatbelts and, for younger children, car restraints are also important safety measures, he says.

Jordan recommends that people in high-risk sports simply participate less. People who get concussions should wait until their symptoms subside and be evaluated by a coach, nurse, or team physician before getting back in the game. James Kelly, MD, of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago has developed a sideline evaluation guide that coaches can use to determine if a player can return to the field, says Senno.

"It is crucial to prevent 'second-impact syndrome,'" he says. He describes this as receiving two concussions back to back. Signs that someone needs a more extensive examination include persistent headaches, disorientation, memory lapses, episodes of nausea or vomiting, vision problems, muscle weakness, or numbness or tingling anywhere on the body.

Get answers to your questions about concussions and other brain injuries from sports.

 

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