The director of the Centers for Disease Control offers tips to keep children safe as they jump headlong into summer sports.
By Julie Gerberding
Concussions are one of the most common injuries among children.
When more than 38 million boys and girls participate in organized youth sports across the United States, injuries are bound to happen. Concussions – brought on by a bump, blow or joltto the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull – are one of the most common injuries among young athletes. Every year, as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in kids and adults in this country.
As summer gets underway, let's look at this far-too-common problem.
If you suspect a concussion, you should:
Remove the athlete from play.
Ensure that the athlete is evaluated right away by an appropriate health care professional.
Allow the athlete to return to play only with permission from a health care professional who has experience in diagnosing concussions.
Get the "Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports" tool kit from the CDC
Although a concussion sometimes is described as a "ding" or having one's "bell rung," even a seemingly mild bump or blow to the head can be serious. Most athletes who sustain a concussion will recover, but some will continue to have problems that can affect the way they think, learn, feel and act.
Early identification of a concussion is critical because athletes who return to play too soon following their initial injury are at risk for a repeat concussion. In general, a repeat concussion occurs before the brain recovers from the first one -- often within a short period of time (hours, days or weeks) -- and can slow recovery or increase the risk of having long-term problems. Although rare, repeat concussions sometimes can lead to brain swelling, permanent brain damage and even death.
Youth sports coaches and parents are on the front line in the effort to identify and respond to concussions, and they are eager to learn how to keep their athletes safe and healthy. This is why the CDC Injury Center is equipping coaches and parents across the country with the "Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports" tool kit, which explains how to prevent, recognize and respond to a concussion. The kit includes fact sheets, plus a clipboard with important information, so it's right at adults' fingertips when needed.
The materials provide a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms of a concussion and several crucial steps to take when a concussion is suspected. Coaches and parents also need to do the following:
Insist that safety comes first. Ensure that athletes always wear the right protective equipment. Make sure their youth sports league or administrator has a concussion action plan in place.
Coaches, parents and athletes must recognize and manage injuries -- especially concussions -- in order for young athletes to be a part of safe, winning teams.
The CDC Injury Center wants kids and teens to know that a concussion is a serious injury. Tell them not to try to hide a concussion. They should report it right away, then take time to recover from it. It's better to miss one game than the whole season.
Julie Louise Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., is director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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