Concussion Care Should Top Every Youth Sports Playbook

Being struck by another person or object is the leading cause of unintentional injury for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24, according to Injury Facts, and sports-related concussions are a significant contributor.

Don't think it's just football players – or boys – who bang their heads. Girls actually suffer a higher percentage of concussions, according to a report by Safe Kids Worldwide that analyzed sports-related emergency room injury data for children ages 6 to 19 in basketball, cheerleading, football, soccer and 11 other sports.

An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million athletes annually suffer concussion, according to the Brain Injury Research Institute. Often, cases are underreported and undiagnosed. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows the number of sports-related concussions is highest in high school athletes, but they are significant and on the rise in younger athletes.

Most concussions occur during games, not practices. Few result in loss of consciousness. Protect The Brain breaks down sports concussion facts for all age groups:

  • 10% of all contact-sport athletes sustain concussions yearly
  • Football injuries associated with the brain occur at a rate of one in every 5.5 games
  • 5% of soccer players sustain brain injuries
  • The head is involved in more baseball injuries than any other body part; almost half of injuries involve a child's head, face, mouth or eyes
  • An athlete who sustains concussion is 4-6 times more likely to sustain a second concussion

Heady Stuff: Life Lessons and Warning Signs

If your child gets hit on the head, do not assume he just had his bell rung, or she was just dinged. Concussions are very serious and always require medical attention. Signs and symptoms of concussion include:

  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Glassy eyes
  • Disorientation
  • Clumsiness or poor balance
  • Slowed speech
  • Changes in mood, behavior or personality

Research indicates most children and teens who have a concussion feel better within a couple of weeks. However, for some, symptoms may last for months or longer and can lead to short- and long-term problems affecting how they think, act, learn and feel.

Following a concussion, athletes of all ages are advised to undergo a series of steps before returning to play: rest, then light exercise and sport-specific training. Only then should they be cleared to resume contact drills.

Make sure all coaches know how to recognize the signs of a concussion and have a plan in case of emergency. Safe Kids offers this resource to teach coaches what they need to know.