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What Every Parent Should Know About Concussions

Teenage Girls Playing Soccer
Mike Watson Images – ThinkStock

The increased incidence of concussions has made many parents concerned about their young athletes.  If you have kids playing sports in high school or college, here is some important information you should know.

High School Athletes

If your high school child is playing sports or going to a sports camp or clinic this summer, you might want to listen to this.  More than two million high school kids compete in the sports where concussion is common: football, ice hockey, lacrosse and soccer.  When you think of concussions, football is the sport that comes to mind and there is obviously a high incidence of concussion in football.  Since 2010, Pop Warner – the largest youth football program in the country – has had a decrease in enrollment by roughly 9.6 percent; and the National Academy of Sciences found high school players average 11.2 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures.

However, a new study from Northwestern University in Chicago finds female soccer players actually suffer the highest rate of concussions among all high school athletes in the United States.  It is speculated that heading the ball coupled with the smaller necks of girls could be a factor.  A concussion is an injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function. Biggest signs of a concussion are confusion, and loss of memory, but not necessarily a loss of consciousness.   Concussions can affect memory, judgement, reflexes, speech and coordination.  

College Athletes

Stories of young college football players committing suicide due to the incredible symptoms of multiple concussions, among numerous other incidences, has made former NFL head coach Mike Ditka speak out against allowing the nation’s future to play contact football after recent cranial discoveries.

Lacrosse is second to football with 6.9 concussions per 10,000 exposures. Excluding the modest percentage of concussions, lacrosse is a straightforward sports with minimal contact. Injuries are typically ankle and knee ligament sprains, ACL tears, muscle strains, and shin splints. This traditional Native American pastime has seen a rise in the numbers of players over the past few years.

Soccer possesses the highest risk of concussions for girls at 6.7 per 10,000, and gymnastics rose from 1.6 to 7 concussions per 10,000 exposures between 2004-2011. Per the American Journal of Sports Medicine published in 2011, swimming appears to be the safest sport, registering only 1 concussion per 100,000 exposures.

As parents, we need to be advocates in getting schools to offer  concussion education and prevention programs that can help reduce the incidence and severity of concussion.  Finally, we can get a baseline cognitive test before our athlete starts playing to be used for comparison if our child experiences a concussion.

Check out the causes and symptoms of concussion.

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