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The Press Box For Aug. 16

By Staff | Aug 16, 2017

If your kids play sports, you need to know about concussions. With kids playing fall contact sports, parents need to be aware of why concussions are such serious injuries and how they should be treated.

With school already in session in some areas, and others ready to start, students everywhere are gearing up to compete in their favorite fall and winter sports.

And when kids play sports, especially contact sports like football and soccer, concussions have traditionally been associated with these, and other high impact sports, putting kids at increased risk. Knocks on the head sometimes don’t seem serious have often been brushed off; however, it’s becoming more common to see young athletes of all types being pulled off the field or court for possible concussions. We had an old coach who use to say, “I think he’s been hit in the head too many times.” He usually said that when someone made a stupid mistake, like running the wrong way with the ball or tackling his own player. You know what I mean; you’ve all heard it. But the truth is, that just may be what had happened.

In the past, we’ve looked to experienced parents and coaches to make decisions regarding athletes that suffer a blow to the head, but given the seriousness of untreated head injuries, they can’t be handled that way anymore. If a possible concussion is even suspected, it’s important to seek a doctor’s diagnosis.

It is estimated that 1 in 5 high school athletes will experience a concussion during their playing season, and that number rises as you participate in high impact sports. Even though concussion awareness has risen dramatically in the past several years, parents should still learn as much as possible about the risks and its symptoms. Some schools are now doing their part to inform parents by sending out concussion awareness forms at the beginning of the sports season. This is an important step in helping protect kids from serious injury. Parents, teachers, and coaches need to know about concussions so that they can protect the young people in their care.

A football tackle, being hit with a baseball or softball, heading a soccer ball, or a hard spike from a volleyball – plus tripping and falling – are just a few of the athletic scenarios that can result in concussions or Traumatic Brain Injury. The bottom line is, a childhood concussion can adversely affect an individual’s personal and professional success throughout his lifetime.

The signs of concussion can range from mild to severe. The immediate effects of a concussion can be subtle or very noticeable. Some of the most common post concussion symptoms include headache, visual blurring, light sensitivity, difficulty concentrating, dizziness and balance problems, nausea, memory dysfunction, and fatigue. When in doubt, whether you notice symptoms or not, it’s always smart to get your child checked out after a blow to the head.

Many children return to sports or other risky activities before they have fully healed; once again, it’s crucial for parents and coaches to fully follow doctors’ advice and to err on the side of caution. The first and best line of defense is prevention.

No, you can’t raise your child in a bubble, but always take precautions to lower their risk. If your child participates in an activity where falls or blows to the head are a possibility, make sure he wears a helmet. Kids know when they are hurt; they may not always acknowledge it and they may say “I’m fine,” but the truth is, many times they are afraid to come out of a game for fear of being ridiculed. One boy told me last year, after suffering what was believed to be a severely sprained ankle, that he continued to play at the urging of his father, who called him a few names, and told him to “walk it off” and get back in the game. It was later discovered that he had a fractured bone in the inside of his ankle.

The same thing happens with head injuries. A young sophomore football player, last year, got his bell rung pretty good and complained about a severe headache. The school trainer looked him over, after he had set out a few plays, and asked him how he felt; by this time the parents had told their son to shake it off and try to return. The child did, and later, after another hard hit, he fell to the ground never to recover. That wasn’t a local incident, however, but it does give us good knowledge of what can happen when any kind of injury is left unattended.

If your child plays a sport, and you see unsafe behaviors happening in practices or games, speak up; likewise, voice your concerns if you believe coaches and other parents aren’t taking head injuries seriously. Remove your child from the team if changes aren’t made. While I don’t believe that the risk of concussion means that parents should pull their children out of sports, I am a strong advocate of taking all reasonable precautions to keep young athletes safe.

Brain health isn’t something most people think about on a regular basis; we tend to simply assume that our brains will always be there, doing their jobs. But the truth is, the brain is just as vulnerable to injury as other parts of the body. And, in fact, TBI can have more serious, longer-lasting effects than, say, a typical broken arm or leg. Please, don’t assume that concussions are normal or that they won’t happen to your child. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to prevent and recognize concussions, and to seek proper treatment if one occurs.

My advice to all the parents and coaches is to err on the side of precaution, no matter how small the injury may seem. Kids do know when they are hurting and what they are capable of. Don’t force the issue; if an athlete has suffered an injury, get him/her checked out without delay. Delaying professional medical advice can lead to major problems down the road that can never be reversed. Young kids normally can take more punishment than older people, but there is a limit to how much anyone can take, don’t make the mistake, as a parent or coach, that will cost a child the opportunity of a normal life, because of what you want or need from him/her.

It is the normal practice, and I believe it is part of the WVSSAC rules here in WV high schools, to have well trained individuals ready, and available, to assess our kids when they receive an injury. We have good trainers and medical personnel at the games to assist when there is an incident. Our coaches are also well trained, and those officiating the games know what to do as well.

Sports season is here for the 2017-18 school year; let’s all do everything we can to make it a positive injury-free experience and year for the athletes and students at our local high schools. We hope to have competitive teams and players who condition well and work hard to become better athletes; that is the goal of most teams, coaches and athletes. Cheer them on; root for your favorite team; give them good positive advice, and encourage them to be winners. However, do whatever it takes to safeguard them from even the smallest injury and teach them above everything else to be good sports who care about the safety of not only their own teams, but the opposition as well. Good luck to all athletes and coaches for another successful year of high school sports.eparsons@tylerstarnews.com.