Thursday, October 31st, 2013
Concussions in youth sports are on the rise, and a new report from the Institute of Medicine urges parents of girls to pay special attention, citing a “culture of resistance” that has kept public education efforts from having widespread effect. More from NBC News:
Despite widespread coverage, damage from concussions is underestimated and blows to the head suffered by young athletes often go unreported, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine released on Wednesday. In addition, football helmets fail to protect against concussions, the report found, although the committee, a group of pediatricians, educators, psychiatrists and engineers, recommended protective gear to prevent other injuries.
The number of athletes aged 19 and younger who were treated for concussions and other sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries rose from 150,000 in 2001 to a quarter million in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. In college athletics, the rate of concussions in more than a dozen sports doubled between the school year that ended in 1989 and the one that ended in 2004.
The committee also found that young women and girls have a higher rate of concussions than boys in the sports they play, including soccer and basketball. And although the rate of concussions in cheerleading remain low compared to other sports, for example, the rate of concussions in the sport increased at a rate of 26 percent each year from 1998 to 2008. That marks a greater rate of increase than for any other sport played by young women at the high school and college levels.
While improved diagnosis may account for at least some of the higher concussion rates “there is probably also a difference in the competitiveness in children and their sports,” said committee member Mayumi Prins, an associate professor in neurosurgery at the UCLA. “Children are being trained earlier in sports and they’re focusing on a single sport rather than diversifying. In the female population we do see that the way girls play sports has changed in the last 10 years — they’re more aggressive.”
Without early diagnosis and proper treatment, teens and young kids are at greater risk of repeated concussions and potential long-term damage. One major factor keeping kids from getting treatment: many think it’s their duty to keep mum about their symptoms,and get back in the game.
Image: Girl playing soccer, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 13th, 2013
The number one killer of young athletes is not concussion- or head injury-related, a group of youth sports safety advocates announced at a recent conference in Washington, DC. Instead, sudden cardiac arrest, typically brought on by a pre-existing, detectable condition that could have been treated, is the culprit in most sports-related deaths. Another lethal threat is heat stroke, which is considered to be completely preventable. The New York Times reports on the findings, and how safety advocates are trying to raise awareness of these risks:
Concussions are receiving attention nationwide, but death from a blow to the head is exceedingly rare. In contrast, a young athlete dies from a cardiac incident once every three days in the United States, researchers say. In hot months like August, heat stroke often causes the death of a young athlete every other day on average.
“Concussion victims almost always get a second chance,” said Laura Friend, an attendee at the Washington summit whose 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, died of sudden cardiac arrest while swimming at a Texas community pool in 2004. “When your heart fails from something that could have been treated — which happens all the time — you don’t have another chance. As someone told me, sudden cardiac arrest is not rare; surviving it is.”
Heat stroke, also known as exertional heat illness, has been a focus of sports safety advocates because of simple, common-sense preventive measures, like introducing gradual levels of exercise at the beginning of a sports season in hot temperatures.
“When my son died, people treated it as a freak thing,” said Rhonda Fincher, whose 13-year-old son, Kendrick, died in 1995 from heat stroke sustained during a season-opening football practice in northwestern Arkansas. “The ignorance was unacceptable because, unfortunately, it is not infrequent. And we should all know that.
“No healthy child should be sent off to a routine practice and die from it.”
Leaders of youth sports acknowledge that concussions have long been overlooked and that the injury deserves a period of heightened awareness, especially because of the potential for long-term consequences. But as the focus of the February conference organized by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association suggests, there is a mounting worry that more hazardous health concerns are being disregarded because of the intense emphasis on brain injuries.
A sudden heart-related death is “so incredibly tragic and stunning that people aren’t comfortable putting it into the everyday conversation,” said Dr. Jonathan Drezner, the president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.
“I do wish, to some extent, it was something people talked more about,” Drezner added, “because we are getting to a place where we could prevent many of these deaths.”
Image: Girl with soccer ball, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Children and teenagers who sustain concussions during athletic play should sit on the bench until they have been evaluated–and cleared–by a medical professional, according to new guidelines released Monday by the American Academy of Neurology. The new guidelines, which are the first revisions to concussion management since 1997, don’t provide a set time before an athlete can return to play, but recommend that doctors evaluate the athlete and then make a determination of the safest time to return to the game. More from NBC News:
“The message we’re sending is that any time a concussion is suspected, even if you’re not sure, you should sit that player out until there has been an evaluation by a medical provider with concussion expertise,” said the guidelines’ lead author, Dr. Christopher Giza, an associate professor of pediatric neurology and neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“We say: ‘If in doubt, sit them out’.”
Image: Kids playing footblall, via SUSAN LEGGETT / Shutterstock.com
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Thursday, December 8th, 2011
A new study of the brains of experienced soccer players–adults who have played the game since childhood–has concluded that repeated heading of the ball has pronounced effects on brain functions including memory and attention. The New York Times reports:
The researchers found, according to data they presented at a Radiological Society of North America meeting last month, that the players who had headed the ball more than about 1,100 times in the previous 12 months showed significant loss of white matter in parts of their brains involved with memory, attention and the processing of visual information, compared with players who had headed the ball fewer times. (White matter is the brain’s communication wiring, the axons and other structures that relay messages between neurons.)
This pattern of white matter loss is “similar to those seen in traumatic brain injury,” like after a serious concussion, the researchers reported, even though only one of these players reported having ever experienced a concussion.
The players who had headed the ball about 1,100 times or more in the past year were also substantially worse at recalling lists of words read to them, forgetting or fumbling the words far more often than players who had headed the ball less often.
“Based on these results, it does look like there is a potential for significant effects on the brain from frequent heading,” says Dr. Michael L. Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Einstein and senior author of the study.
Image: Boy with a soccer ball, via Shutterstock
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