According to just-released guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology, athletes who could have a concussion should be benched immediately. Child athletes should not return to their sport until they’ve been cleared for play by a doctor. And, with the new rules, they'll have the role models leading the way.
Although this approach was widely practiced in kids’ sports already, the new guidelines standardize concussion care for them, and for all athletes – from pee-wee to professional – and sets an example for kids at the very top of the heap.
“A parent might see a professional athlete go back into a game after suffering a head injury and think, ‘Why can’t my child do the same thing?’” says Joseph Rempson, M.D., co-director of the Concussion Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ. “With this new consistency, everybody understands that these guidelines are not just for young athletes and it will eliminate confusion for student athletes and their parents.”
Signs of a concussion include dizziness, nausea, headaches and memory loss, but many concussions appear symptomless at first. “It can take up to 48 and sometimes 72 hours for concussion symptoms to set in,” says Dr. Rempson. “Athletes might feel pretty good at the moment or shortly after the hit but then, hours later, exhibit side effects.”
Another reason for an abundance of caution? A second hit on a concussed brain can cause brain damage, or worse. “Second impact syndrome – when a second concussion occurs while symptoms from an initial concussion still exist -- can cause the brain to swell up, sometimes leading to death,” says Dr. Rempsen.
The riskiest sports for concussion are football, rugby, hockey and soccer, in that order. (For girls, it’s soccer and basketball.) Helmets, worn in some of these riskier sports, do little to prevent a concussion.
“When a student athlete hits the court floor with his or her head or has a head-to-head collision on a field, the head stops, but the brain shakes,” says Dr. Rempsen. “A helmet doesn’t stop the fact that the head stops suddenly; the brain is still going to move.”
Still, helmets and mouth guards are recommended to prevent skull fractures, dental injuries, lacerations and other traumas.
Has your child ever had a concussion? Leave a comment.