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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Studies Hit Hard on Concussion Risks

Published June 17, 2010 12:32 PM by Cheryl McEvoy
To sports enthusiasts, there's nothing more satisfying than hearing the smack of helmets in a heated football game. That is, unless the head under that helmet belongs to your kid. In that case, it's a terrifying reminder of how delicate the brain is, not to mention the rest of the 80 lb. frame being jostled around.

Unfortunately, most parents don't know how to identify concussions, and even if they did, they have little means to prevent further injury. In a recent survey by the University of Michigan, half of parents asked didn't know if their child's school had a concussion policy, and a third were unaware of the risks associated with repeat concussions. Perhaps most concerning, the majority said they knew a parent or coach who would send a child back to practice without sufficient time for recovery.

It's a frightening indication of nonchalance, especially as professional sports are adopting more safety measures to prevent concussions in athletes. So, why the lack of concern in youth sports?

According to the survey, it seems to be more of a communication issue than anything else. Eighty-four percent of parents said they support requiring a doctor's evaluation before letting a young athlete return to practice, and 67 percent supported having a certified trainer at games and practices (Good news for all you ATCs!). It seems the disconnect is in voicing those requests to school administrators and coaches, which is necessary to start a discussion on youth sports safety.

Some might shrug school sports off as amateur, low impact and unlikely to yield any serious brain injury. But pediatric physical therapists have no doubt seen their share of major sports injuries--or the aftermath. And, as a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found, kids have a higher risk of concussion when they field those constant crashes.

Fortunately, physical therapists and athletic trainers can educate parents about the risks. This week, we even have a Patient Handout on Symptoms of Concussions to distribute to athletes old or young--or any patient, for that matter. Print it, use it, and make sure that--at the very least--kids are wearing protective gear on the field.

Do you think parents should know more about concussions? What about school administrators and coaches? Share your thoughts below!

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