Youth Concussions

Did you know that the rate of youth concussions in U.S. high schools has more than doubled over the past seven years, yet many concussions remain undiagnosed. A concussion is a brain injury typically caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. You don’t need to lose consciousness to have a concussion. According to the CDC, the sports with the greatest number of traumatic brain injuries are bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball and soccer, but concussions can occur in any sports or recreational activity.

Dr. John Gallucci Jr. is a physical therapist and the medical coordinator for Major League Soccer. According to his recent book, Soccer Injury Prevention and Treatment: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Players, Parents, and Coaches, concussions “not only affect the body and how a person feels; they can also affect speech, vision, balance, and long- and short-term memory, and can be detrimental to the neurological, psychological and cognitive well-being of the individual.” This injury needs to be taken seriously.

What are the symptoms? While concussions are common, no two are the same and individuals can show a variety of signs and symptoms. Symptoms may not occur for a few hours after the injury. The symptoms may be cognitive, such as being confused about where you are, or physical, such as dizziness or headache. Watch to see if your child appears dazed or stunned or moves clumsily. They might also complain of a headache or “not feeling right.” has an extensive list of other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, sluggishness, fuzzy vision, or difficulty sleeping. If you suspect a concussion, the best course of action is go to the doctor for a diagnosis.

Recent research shows that high school athletes take longer to recover after a concussion and may experience more neurological disturbances than collegiate or professional athletes. Because the brain continues to develop until age 25, it’s important to monitor youth concussions. It’s especially important to fully recover from one concussion before risking another one.

How can we prevent concussions? While helmets can protect against fractures and more serious injuries, they cannon prevent a concussion. Make sure that safety techniques are taught and practiced, such as not leading with your helmet to tackle in football. Every sports team should have a concussion policy that outlines the steps to be taken if a concussion is suspected, and when an athlete can safely return to play. At the very least, athletes should be kept out of play the day of the injury and until they can be evaluated by a health care professional.


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