August 30, 2010

Caution Recommended For Kids Returning To Sports After Concussion

According to a new report in Pediatrics, a doctor should clear kids who suffer concussions before they begin playing sports again.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends the physical and mental recovery period that is necessary for young athletes after a head injury.

A separate study estimates that about 100,000 kids between the ages 8 and 19 go to the emergency room with concussions.  Dr. Lisa Bakhos from Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island led the survey.

The study found that more kids are being treated for concussions that occurred during organized sports.  However, that "leaves the question of all of the other concussions that may be occurring where the kids are not reporting it and the parents are not taking them to the emergency room," Dr. Tamara Valovich McLeod, the sports medicine chair at the Arizona School of Health Sciences, who was not involved in the research, told Reuters Health.

The Council wrote that the brains of kids and adolescents might be more susceptible to the effects of a concussion than older athletes. 

They recommend a gradual increase in activity after a concussion.

According to the recommendations, athletes, parents, and coaches should be aware of concussion symptoms, as well as the harms of not properly treating head injuries.

Sport-related concussions often occur after a blow to the head or neck.

The Council says that the symptoms include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, or depression and anxiety.

"We're relying on an athlete reporting symptoms," Dr. Mark Halstead, director of the Sports Concussion Program at Washington University in St. Louis and one of the report's authors, told Reuters Health. "There's obvious (concussions) where a kid gets knocked out." But, for "the majority, the kid ... may not realize they've had one."

According to Council recommendations, coaches and trainers should first rule out the possibility of a spine injury and then test the athlete's mental functioning by asking questions like "What team did you play last week?" 

The council says that if a concussion is confirmed, then kids need to rest physically and mentally. 
Bakhos and her colleagues found in their emergency room study that the rate of concussions was highest in kids who played football and ice hockey.  They found that twice as many kids visited the emergency room for concussions suffered during organized sports in 2007 than in 1997.

Most concussions that took place off the field occurred while bike riding, skiing, and playing on the playground.

Experts say that the rise in emergency room visits for concussion may reflect a mixture of good and bad news.

Much of the increase comes from parents and coaches getting better at recognizing and reporting concussions. 

"Concussions have always been, 'oh, you've just been dinged' ... they've been kind of ignored," Halstead told Reuters Health. "The awareness is out there a lot more."


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