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Monday, October 1st, 2012
A new book written by a neurosurgeon advises that tackling in football and heading in soccer should not be allowed until children are 14 years old and are showing signs of reaching puberty. The reason for the recommendation is that those practices are believed to cause concussions that can lead to developmental, learning, and other health problems as children grow. From CNN.com:
“If kids don’t have axillary (underarm) or pubic hair, they aren’t ready to play,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts and author of a new book, “Concussion and Our Kids.”
“And I have absolutely no problem with parents who want to hold a child out for longer, say 16 or 18.”
No tackling? No body checking before 14?
Heading a soccer ball before 14 in soccer might be sacrificed — if studies eventually bear out the debatable link to concussion — but tackling and body checking essentially define football and hockey.
In Cantu’s words, “These are sports in which smashing into your opponent isn’t just a possibility — it’s the object of the game.”
And there is some substance behind the argument for waiting until 14, says Cantu, not the least of which is protecting young, developing brains. At 14, he says, several things enhance the body’s ability to protect against head trauma.
Before 14, there is a size disparity between the head and the body, causing what concussion experts call a “bobble-head” effect — the head snaps back dramatically after it is hit.
“Our youngsters have big heads on very weak necks and that combination sets up the brain for greater injury,” said Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine.
However, around age 14, a child’s skull is about 90% the size of an adult’s, and the neck and body are strong enough to steel the head against the force of a blow, according to Cantu. The more developed the neck muscles, the less dramatically the head (and thus the brain) is rocked after a tackle or a body check.
Image: Child with football, via Shutterstock
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Friday, April 20th, 2012
A high-school junior with Down syndrome, who has played on his school’s basketball and football teams, may have to sit on the sidelines for his senior year because he has turned 19 and now violates the maximum age allowed by the school district.
Eric Dompierre attends Ishpeming High School in Michigan, where he has experienced some thrilling moments in sports, including scoring a 3-point shot in basketball and kicking a field goal in football. His parents have always been thrilled and grateful for his acceptance and level of participation, and they are fighting to allow him to play during his senior year. From CNN.com:
According to the constitution of the Michigan High School Athletic League, students who turn 19 before September 1 are not allowed to compete in sports. The rule is intended to prevent the possibility of injury or competitive advantage from an older more developed athlete playing against younger students.
For the past two years Eric’s parents, with the support of the Ishpeming High School District have tried to get the rule changed so Eric can play during his senior year.
But a committee with the Michigan High School Athletic Association has refused two proposals which would allow kids like Eric to participate.
James Derocher is the president of that committee says “our members have to change the constitution and at this point in time they’ve told us ‘no.’ ”
Derocher says one of the concerns is that if they let Eric play, other 19-year-olds may come along in the future and claim a disability for a competitive advantage.
Image: Football, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, February 6th, 2012
Baseball players have long been given a “pitch count,” a number of pitches they are allowed to throw before they must rest their arms and shoulders. Now researchers are saying that young athletes who participate in contact sports, chiefly football, should have a similar “hit count” to minimize the number of slams and tackles–and concussions–their brains endure.
CNN.com‘s “The Chart” blog has more reports:
The adolescent football player’s brain is rattled an average of 650 times per season. That’s just an average. There are positions on the football field where the numbers approach 1,000 hits to the head. And while a small fraction of those hits actually lead to a diagnosable concussion, the concern is that sub-concussive damage – the menacing smaller blows that add up during practices and games – could be as bad, or worse, for the brain.
With those sobering stats in mind, the Sports Legacy Institute [SLI] Friday called for the adoption of a “Hit Count” – similar to the “Pitch Count” system used in baseball – for youth athletes participating in contact sports.
“In baseball you have a pitch count because research showed that the more times you threw in a day or during the season, the more risk that you would wear out the elbow,” said Chris Nowinski, president and CEO of the SLI, a sports research advocacy group. “Trauma to the head can wear out the brain. So if you’re going to limit trauma for elbows, then you should also limit it for the brain.”
The SLI is proposing a 1,000 hit-per-season limit for young athletes, as well as a 2,000 hit-per-year cap.
The idea behind the hit count may sound simple, but implementation could pose a challenge. The idea of changing any sport, especially football, is bound to have detractors. But resistance to rule changes at the NFL level gradually waned, and Nowinski hopes that the same might happen at the youth level.
“You’ve got the toughest men in the room [NFL players] saying there is no such thing as a tough brain,” said Nowinski. “If the NFL is willing to do that, then we should do that for kids as well.”
Image: Kid in football gear, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 6th, 2011
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that emergency room visits for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, increased among children by 60 percent over the last decade.
The number of injuries rose from 153,375 in 2001 to 248,418 in 2009, researchers found, mostly following accidents during bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer.
The CDC says that the rise in number may not be due to changes in how children play sports or use playground equipment. Instead, researchers attribute the increase to a raised awareness among parents, coaches, and the general public of the importance of seeking medical care after a head injury.
Children may be more vulnerable to long-term effects of TBIs than adults. TBI symptoms may appear mild, researchers say, but the injury can lead to significant life-long impairment affecting an individual’s memory, behavior, learning, and/or emotions. Appropriate diagnosis, management, and education are critical for helping young athletes with a TBI recover quickly and fully.
“While some research shows a child’s developing brain can be resilient, it is also known to be more vulnerable to the chemical changes that occur following a TBI,” said Richard C. Hunt, M.D., director of CDC’s Division for Injury Response.
(image via: http://www.kob.com/)
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Monday, August 1st, 2011
The Boston Globe is reporting on new rules in Massachusetts aimed at protecting schoolchildren from potentially serious head injuries that can come on the football field or during other sports activities. An estimated 136,000 concussions occur in the course of high school sports each year in the United States, the article stated. The National Federation of State High School Associations has a training program specifically on concussions and head injuries, training coaches (who are then urged to train their student-athletes) to recognize slurred speech, confusion, nausea, fatigue, or dizziness as symptoms of a concussion.
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Under a law passed by the Legislature last year, everyone involved with school teams – coaches, volunteers, players, parents, and other officials – must be trained annually in how to recognize concussions and get the appropriate care for students who suffer one.
Any student suspected of having a concussion now must be removed from play immediately and cleared by a doctor before returning. The law also calls for students diagnosed with a concussion to have a written plan for gradually returning to both athletics and academics.
What exactly is a concussion? It is not a bruise on the brain. Nor does it involve swelling or bleeding. A concussion can occur when an athlete collides with another player, a goal post, or the ground, causing the brain to rattle or twist in the skull.
That prompts what is referred to as a “metabolic cascade,’’ a series of changes in which the brain’s nerve cells stop functioning as they should and blood flow is slowed. The process is not fully understood, in large part because researchers aren’t able to probe the brains of people who have suffered a concussion. And the effects are not visible on imaging tools, such as CT scans or MRIs.
If a person rests properly – meaning no physical activity beyond walking, and little cognitive activity – the brain can recover in almost all instances, said Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston University professor of neurosurgery who has been studying concussions and advocating for better prevention among athletes for decades.
But if a concussed athlete keeps playing and suffers further trauma to the head, the situation becomes very different.