Sports play a significant role in the lives of young people in America today. Even before they start school, kids are involved in community sports such as T-ball, PeeWee football, and youth soccer. Sports can be a wonderful addition to a child’s life, teaching teamwork and social skills while helping to keep kids healthy, combatting the threat of childhood obesity, and instilling a lifetime appreciation of physical fitness. However, as San Francisco sports lawyer Gregory Brod knows all too well, youth sports can also lead to injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to compound fractures. Another serious threat, one that is beginning to get the attention it demands, is a childhood sports concussion.
Statistics on Youth Sports & Traumatic Brain Injury
According to the experts at the Center for Disease Control , each year ERs in the United States see about 173,285 cases of traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), including concussions, in children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 years stemming from sports and other recreation activities. These injuries have risen by 60% over the last decade. Among high school athletes, TBI occurs most often in football and girls’ soccer. In children under age 9, other common causes of TBI include bicycle riding and playground activity.
Testing & Resting
Discussing “Diagnostics & Testing,” The Concussion Center at the Cleveland Clinic, notes that doctors cannot detect a concussion with conventional imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans. Discussing symptoms and performing a physical exam can assist doctors in diagnosing a concussion. Computerized testing technology, such as the ImPACT system, are one of the best tools for identifying concussions. ImPACT is a 20-30 minute test that evaluates neurocognitive functioning. Ideally, athletes take a baseline test prior to an injury that can be compared to the test taken after the injury to identify changes in cognitive function.
It is extremely important that athletes do not return to play until they are fully healed and completely symptom free. As the Cleveland Clinic notes (see the Symptom Management section of the above-listed site), athletes should not engage in any athletic activity until a medical professional says it is okay. The return to play should be gradual, building from gentle stretching to full-contact competitive play and stopping if symptoms reappear. The CDC notes that playing with a concussion can lead to a repeat concussion which may increases the potential of long-term damage and can, in rare instances, lead to swelling of the brain (edema), permanent brain injury, and even death.
The Importance of Responsible Adults in Youth Sports
Youth sports are becoming increasingly competitive, even in the earliest years. Training is more intense and many kids are playing on multiple teams (i.e. school and community leagues) and in multiple sports. Coaches and program personnel must be prepared to identify possible concussions and other forms of TBI. They should help participants learn safe play and prevent concussions upfront. They must also refuse to allow players to continue play if there is the possibility of TBI and require medical clearance for a return to action after a head injury. Children and teens often want to keep playing, in part because their ability to appreciate risk is still developing. Adults must be responsible; there’s a reason youth programs have adult supervision.
If you believe the decisions of a coach or policies of a sports organization caused your child harm, please call. Our Northern California sports injury lawyer has specialized experience and can help your child win money damages that can be especially crucial in the case of long-term brain damage. Call to arrange a free consultation.
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California Concussion Law Takes Effect January 2012, Increasing School Liability
(Picture by Sue Clark)