Concussions: Hidden danger in youth sports

Spring and summer are fast-approaching and with them the inevitable spring training programs that signal...

Spring and summer are fast-approaching and with them the inevitable spring training programs that signal the start of the next sports season. All across metro-Atlanta, kids and parents alike are gearing up in preparation for this largely fun and rewarding time of year. However, what may be forgotten in all the excitement is the very real danger of injuries, more specifically, concussions.

Concussions can occur in any sport but are a major concern for high-intensity contact sports (football, hockey, etc). Being aware of this fact is one of the first steps in prevention. Below you'll find some tips to help you identify signs of concussion in your young athlete and the steps necessary for a full and healthy recovery.

So, what is a concussion anyway?

Technically known as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a concussion is any blow to the head or body that results in significant and noticeable changes to normal brain function. The important thing to remember is that any blow can cause a concussion, not just those that hit the head.

Signs and symptoms

Even though your athlete may not complain of any pain or discomfort following a collision, this doesn't mean that he/she has not suffered the injury. Here's what to look for if you think a concussion may have occurred:

  • Athlete shows signs of disorientation (unable to answer simple questions clearly, unsure of location)
  • Athlete show signs of memory loss
  • Athlete's movement is uncoordinated, clumsy
  • Athlete has sudden changes in mood or behavior
  • Athlete becomes sensitive to light or noise

Keep in mind that none of these symptoms may appear immediately. Stay on watch for a few days following the event to catch any warning signs as early as possible.

Long/short-term effects of a concussion

Concussions can severely impact the life of your young athlete if left undiagnosed and ultimately untreated.

  • Concussions can result in permanent nerve damage, causing loss of sensation, such as sensitivity to touch, smell and taste.
  • Loss of cognitive ability (comprehension, language skills) has also been documented.
  • Emotional damage in the form of depression and anxiety attacks, as well as other socially incompatible behaviors, are common.
  • Repeated mild/severe concussions can result in more serious damage, up to and including death.

Only a trained medical professional can properly diagnose and recommend treatment for the injury, but generally you'll want to suspend physical activity for at least a few weeks following. Try not to rush your athlete back into strenuous mental activity either. Be patient during the recovery period.

It's best to go to the doctor if you suspect a concussion. Atlanta-area physicians and medical practitioners are available to assist you.

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