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Sports-Related Concussions on the Rise in Kids

Study Shows Hockey and Football Lead Youth Sports in Number of Concussions
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Long-Term Concussion Risks

Halstead says much more is known about the potential for long-term brain injury and even death from concussions today than a decade ago.

"When I started practicing sports medicine about 11 years ago it was common to send a kid with concussion symptoms back into a game 10 or 15 minutes after symptoms resolved," he says. "That doesn't happen as much these days."

He attributes this, in part, to the increased media spotlight on concussion-related deaths and brain injury among professional and varsity athletes.

The deaths of two North Carolina high school football players in less than two months in 2008 led that state to require a doctor's clearance before high school athletes can play or practice following a concussion.

The AAP wants to see the policy adopted nationwide for all children and teens playing sports.

Halstead says a week or 10 days on the sidelines is typical for most uncomplicated concussions, but many individual factors come into play.

"If a child has had more than one concussion or if the hit was particularly hard, it could be much longer," he says.

Parents and coaches also need to know how to spot concussion symptoms. Halstead says fewer than 10% of kids lose consciousness. Amnesia is more common but does not always occur.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue

Symptoms that may not manifest until days after the injury include memory or concentration problems, light and noise sensitivity, sleep disturbances, irritability, and depression.

The AAP recommends restricting both physical and mental exertion until symptoms have resolved. Halstead says schoolwork, playing video games, and even watching TV can all make symptoms worse.

Kids With Multiple Concussions

Finally, the AAP recommends that kids who have multiple concussions consider giving up contact sports for good.

But just how many concussions are too many to keep playing?

"There is no magic number to say you are done forever," Halstead says, adding that factors like the severity of the concussions, whether they occurred in a short period of time, and how long symptoms last all come into play.

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