With kids and teenagers back on the field (following a very tumultuous year), there is likely to be a rise in youth concussions.
Pediatric Neurologist and Sports Neurologist Dr. Kate Labiner shared on the subject in a recent interview:
What are the most typical causes of concussions for younger recreational athletes?
Sports are definitely a major cause of head injuries. For boys, football has the highest number of concussions. For girls, it’s soccer. Athletes tend to return to the sport they were playing where they got their head injury, which is why the risk of a second concussion is higher after they’ve already had one.
What are the initial steps coaches should take to assess a potential concussion?
After a suspected head injury, the typical step is to remove the athlete from play and do a sideline evaluation. This includes a quick neurologic exam looking at eye tracking and a symptom checklist focusing on headaches, blurry vision, light or sound sensitivity, etc.
Orientation questions should also be asked, such as ‘what day is it?’, ‘who are we playing?’, ‘what is the score?’, ‘what is your coach’s name?’. I recommend the child sit out for the rest of the game after a suspected concussion even if their exam is normal since sometimes the symptoms will evolve over the next few hours after the injury.
How can the coach know when the athlete is okay and when they should seek medical care? What signs would indicate immediate emergency care versus follow up care with a PCP or similar?
I recommend going to the ER for evaluation if the child
- loses consciousness
- is vomiting
- remains confused or disoriented for longer than 10 minutes
These are the signs of possible head bleed which is why we want the child evaluated more quickly.
What advice would you give youth recreational coaches for preventing concussions?
I recommend three approaches:
- First, teach young athletes the right way and appropriate form for whatever activity that may put them at risk for a head injury. For example, teach soccer players to head the ball while keeping their necks in alignment with their torso rather than sticking their neck forward.
- Second, remove athletes from play immediately after any suspicion of a head injury and do not allow them to return to the game.
- Lastly, don’t rush athletes back after an injury, no matter how important they are to the team. You only get one brain, and no doctor can replace it for you if you injure it. So, we need to best care for the brain you have, allowing for a full recovery, before athletes return to play.
Making sure the athletes are back to themselves and not downplaying symptoms is also really important. Use your instincts. Often athletic trainers know the athletes so well that they can tell when they are not back to baseline. Athletes who return to play too soon are at high risk for injuries due to slower reaction times and often hesitation which then leads to prolonged recovery.
Any tips on follow-up care when the concussed athlete returns to practice after healing?
It is paramount to follow up closely with your athlete’s physician who is doing regular exams and being honest with them. We don’t want the athlete to open themselves up to further injury or prolonged recovery if they were to return too soon. Most athletes worry about their starting spots and getting enough playtime which complicates their decision issue (they want to get back ASAP!). My goal is to get athletes back as safely as possible, missing one more game is always better than being out for the season.
For an appointment with one of our concussion specialists, or to learn more about our services treating neurological disorders in children and teenagers from 0 to 21 years old, please contact us here.