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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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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Monday, March 19th, 2012
“On average, we’re still seeing a child every six minutes rushed to an emergency department in this country because of a stair-related injury,” a 10-year study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has found.
The silver lining to the stark findings is that the number of injuries has actually fallen by 11 percent over the decade researchers have been following injury data. But one million children under the age of five visited emergency rooms during the study period, more than three-quarters of whom had head and neck injuries.
A notable finding was that many children were hurt while being carried up the stairs, and those children were three times more likely to require hospital care than those who had fallen while climbing stairs on their own.
Not every home can accommodate the wall-mounted safety gates that are recommended at the top of every flight of stairs, said Dr. Brian Smith, director of the Center, in a statement. And in many older homes, staircases are not straight, meaning that some stairs might be slightly shorter or deeper than others, causing a tripping hazard.
“Much more attention should be paid to making stairs safer and user friendly, especially through building codes,” said Smith in a statement.
What can parents do to safeguard their stairs? Smith offers these safety tips:
- Never let children play on stairs
- Always keep stairs free of toys and clutter to prevent tripping
- If you carry a child down the stairs, always keep one hand on the handrail for balance, and never carry anything else at the same time, and install safe handrails.
- Rails that are less than 6¼ inches around are safest, because they make it easier for you to put your hand around the entire rail with a firm power grip.
- Avoid wider, decorative handrails that are difficult to firmly grasp.
Image: Mom and baby on stairs, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and child development are the subjects of two small studies published in the journal Pediatrics this week. CNN.com reports on the findings:
The first study compared the social, intellectual, and behavioral functions of 53 children who had experienced a traumatic brain injury before the age of three, most of which were the result of falls, with 27 children of the same age who had never sustained a TBI.
The authors write that while a severe TBI was associated with lowered intellectual function, the socioeconomic status of the child’s family may be a more powerful predictor of the child’s intellectual development. They cannot fully explain why, but they suggest lower socioeconomic status, high parental stress and low parental involvement has an effect on a child’s recovery.
The study also found that mild, less traumatic injuries, similar to those commonly sustained from short falls, had no negative effect on any of the child’s functions.
The second prospective study, which was conducted at the same children’s hospital in Australia, looked at 40 children who had sustained a TBI at some point between the ages of two and seven.
More of the injuries were sustained from motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents than were in the first study and therefore the children had more severe TBIs in this study. The researchers examined the children immediately after the injury, and then again 12 months, 30 months, and ten years later.
Children in this study who suffered a mild traumatic injury recovered well and didn’t face a dramatic deficit in their intellectual abilities, similar to what was seen in the first study. Researchers also found children with severe TBI had problems with their intellectual, behavioral, and social development. More specifically, children with severe traumatic brain injuries seemed to lag behind their peers in intellectual development for upwards of three years after their injury.
Image: Young boy in a hospital bed, via Shutterstock.
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