Chris Coyne was used to getting pummeled on the football field—he thought that taking a beating was just part of the game. He refused to be sidelined by a few nasty bumps. But after sustaining numerous head injuries, the Yale university student found himself unable to take notes in class or remember where he was going. Like lots of young sports fanatics, Chris wasn’t happy to sit on the bench: he just wanted to get back in the game as soon as possible. More than 50% of sports concussions go unreported, partially because young athletes don’t want to pass up playing time. Chris continued to play with his concussion, and his brain hadn’t recovered from all the times it had slammed against his skull. Ultimately, he had to give up football for good. “I wish I knew then what I know now about concussions and injuries,” he says. “If I did, I would still be playing.”
Experts estimate that there are between 1.6 and 3 million sports-related concussions among children and adults every year. Even if your kid’s not an athlete, you should still make sure you can recognize the symptoms of a concussion. Falls are the main cause of brain injuries in kids under age 10; your tot’s tumble could be more serious than you think. Whenever your kid bangs his head, watch out for these red-flag symptoms: headache, fatigue, balance problems, vomiting, drowsiness, memory and concentration issues, irritability and sadness, and sleep disturbances. If you suspect that your child has a concussion, get her checked out by a doc right away. Though many of these injuries are easily treated with rest, others require surgery to reduce swelling and decrease the risk of long-term damage.
Now, Chris works to raise awareness about concussions, and remind young players how important it is to let themselves rest and recover following an injury.
Check out this video about Chris’s story, which was produced by Choices, a Scholastic magazine for students.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Lambeth Hochwald, a writer for Parents magazine and Parents.com. She recently attended the National Football League (NFL) Youth Health and Safety Luncheon in New York City to learn more about how to prevent and treat concussions.
Concussions are, without a doubt, on the top 10 list of things parents worry about. This brain injury is caused by a blow to the head or the body from hitting another player, a hard surface (such as the ground), or a piece of equipment (such as a lacrosse stick or hockey puck).
With 38 million kids participating in sports each year in the U.S. and 3 million youth football players, the risk of a concussion isn’t rare. In fact, it’s been estimated that there are 1.6 to 3 million sports- and recreation-related concussions among children and adults every year.
Thankfully, our concussion awareness is evolving. Last year, 30 NFL teams hosted health and safety events for community members and the NFL has also partnered with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to educate youth coaches, players, and parents on how to prevent, identify, and properly treat a concussion.
“We know that a concussion changes the brain’s electrochemical ‘software’ function,” said Gerard Gioia, Ph.D., division chief of neuropsychology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “It produces physical, cognitive, and emotional signs and symptoms that can last hours, days, or even months.”
Here are seven things you need to know about concussions:
Know the signs. Concussions can lead to physical symptoms, including headache, fatigue, balance problems, vomiting, and drowsiness; cognitive symptoms, including memory and concentration issues; emotional symptoms, including irritability and sadness and sleep disturbances.
Know the risks.Bicycle accidents are the number one reason kids ages 19 and younger are treated for a concussion in the emergency room. In kids who are 10 and under, concussions tend to occur after a bicycle accident or a fall at the playground.
Know about helmets. Helmets don’t prevent concussions, but they do prevent severe brain injury and skull fractures. Make sure your child is wearing a helmet that meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards (the label inside should include the certification) and that fits properly. “A haircut can affect how a helmet will fit,” added speaker Scott Hallenbeck, executive director of USA Football.
Know that concussions are often an ‘invisible’ injury. Because more than 90 percent of sports-related concussions occur without losing consciousness, it’s up to coaches, teammates, parents, and onlookers to recognize what to do when a child has experienced this trauma.
Know the risky sports/positions. Head injury risks are higher in tackle football and soccer than in other sports. There are also certain positions on a team that can also raise risks. For example, your child is more likely to receive a concussion if she is a baseball catcher or a soccer and hockey goalie.
Know the CDC is on it. The CDC’s “Heads Up” awareness program and Facebook page provide ample information about concussions for health-care professionals, parents, and coaches. Concussion fact sheets are available as clipboard stickers, magnets, and posters for young athletes. These can be ordered in bulk for your child’s school.
Know that it’s imperative for your coach to be trained. The CDC offers online training for youth and high school coaches. Be sure your child’s coach is up-to-date on the latest concussion prevention and treatment information. Ask about his or her experience — your child is counting on you.
Parents should stay vigilant from the sidelines. If you suspect that a coach is continuing to keep a child on the field after an injury, speak up. Playing or practicing with concussion symptoms is dangerous and can lead to longer recovery and a delay in your child’s return to the sport. “Toughing it out” is unacceptable. As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says, “It’s not cool to be tough when it comes to your head.”
Parents, coaches, and health educators can benefit from this DVD as kids become interested in and take more part in sports. Serious problems can occur if the body isn’t used to new exercise routines, so this 2-hour DVD offers easy step-by-step guidelines on how kids can strength train safely and prevent sports injuries.
Kids can also develop strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility without enrolling in expensive gym program, and learn the proper way to stretch before and recover after workouts. Flashcards within the DVD also offer instructions on how to exercise for specific sports at all player levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). A related mobile app will be available in the near future.
“Would you support a fruit-and-water-only snack policy for your kid’s sports team?” That’s the question we posed to our Facebook followers on March 5, in the form of a poll. 303 people said yes, 41 said no.
I’d like to take that concept further. If you would support such a policy, tell me this: Would you welcome a letter like the one that follows? Please keep in mind that it’s referring to young children playing low-intensity peewee-type activities–NOT older kids in sports where they’re burning lots of calories and expending a lot of energy. (That’s key!) Please read the letter and then answer the poll. This is all part of the research we’re doing for a story in the magazine on kids and snacks. Thanks!
I’m organizing the team snack schedule this season, and the coach and I have a suggestion: Remember the orange slices we all ate on the sidelines as kids? Let’s bring them back!
We’re concerned about the snacks being offered at kids’ games and know that many of you are, too. We all sign our kids up for sports to keep them active and fit, but the cookies, chips, cupcakes, doughnuts, and sugary drinks handed out after games aren’t in line with that mission.
This season we’re requesting a fruit-and-water-only snack policy for our team. Fruit contains carbohydrates to replenish their energy, plus vitamins, fiber, and extra fluid to hydrate them. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children need only to drink water after exercise, not juice or sports drinks.
When it’s your turn to supply snacks, we ask that you bring fresh fruit, such as apples, grapes, slices of watermelon, or unsweetened dried fruit. Bananas and small boxes of raisins are inexpensive options. Each child should bring his or her own full water bottle to each game. Please do not bring juice boxes/pouches or sports drinks for the team.
If you don’t think your child will eat fruit or you feel he needs something more after the game, please bring your own snack and give it to your child when he’s away from the field.
With this snack policy, our team can set an example for the whole league. We all care about our kids and want the best for them, so let’s start here. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about this policy. Thank you!