Head injuries, including traumatic brain injury, are becoming more and more common among high school athletes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Between 2000 and 2009, the number of reported head injuries rose by 60 percent for kids under 19.
At the same time, more and more is being learned about the long term effects of a head injury, thanks in part to lawsuits brought against the National Football League (NFL) by as many as 3,000 former players and their family members. One of the most notable instances of a head-injury related lawsuit is that of 20-year-NFL-veteran Junior Seau, who committed suicide, while keeping his brain unharmed, so that the serious effects of years of head trauma could be studied.
The Institute of Medicine began studying the risks posed by recreational and organized sports for children and the CDC created a program called "Heads Up for Youth Sports" to educate kids, parents and coaches about the serious risk of head injury.
According to the CDC, a concussion is the most common type of head injury and should not be taken lightly. A blow to the head, seeing stars or "getting one's bell rung" could lead to a lifetime of problems if not taken seriously. A concussion can result from a direct blow to the head or from a blow to the body that jerks the head back and forth, causing the brain to collide with the skull.
If any of the following symptoms appear, you should take your child to the nearest emergency room:
- A dilated pupil (one pupil larger than the other)
- An inability to wake your child up from sleep
- A persistent headache that worsens over time
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion or an inability to recognize people or places
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
If your child experiences a concussion, he or she should not rush to return to sports. A second bruise to the brain can make healing from the first take even longer, not to mention that your child is more vulnerable to a subsequent concussion while still in the healing process.
Source: Insurance Journal, "Surge in Brain Trauma Among Young Athletes Spurs Call for Action," July 16, 2013