Growing up, soccer was a huge part of my life. I started playing practically as soon as I could walk, and I went on to play competitively until I was 16. As with any physical sport, injuries were a constant concern, but concussions took on a great deal of importance.
As the game goes on, you end up spending a lot of time hitting rock-solid soccer balls with your head. To combat injury, several teams in my Northern California region encouraged players to wear protective headgear. These headbands of chunky, black neoprene wrapped around your forehead, fastened at the base of your skull with Velcro, and promised to protect or mitigate the effects of a concussion. My team had no rule in place, and I, frankly, thought they were ugly and stupid, so I never wore one. Then, of course, headed a ball that the other team's goalie had just punted (admittedly, this was a very bad idea), and I got a concussion.
Luckily, mine was very mild—I only suffered a few days of moderately painful headaches, and I quickly returned to what I thought was normal. The best part was that I didn't have to participate in P.E. for two weeks; the worst was I was also sidelined at soccer practice.
A new study from York University, however, finds that children age 8 to 16 may actually take up to two years to fully recover from the effects of a concussion. Because their brains are still developing, children in this age group are neurologically more vulnerable, and their cognitive motor integration (i.e. how well they interact with a moving target on a computer screen) can be impaired by concussion.
The study tested 50 children with a history of concussion and compared their results to 49 children who had never had a concussion. The children with a concussion history took up to two years to match the performance of their non-concussed peers.
This is problematic because the current return-to-sport assessment doesn't check to see if the athlete has fully gained back this ability—which leaves children even more vulnerable to another concussion.
Luckily, I never got a second concussion. Unfortunately, I had a teammate who repeatedly experienced concussions—and still suffers from the effects of them. All the more reason to fully give ourselves a chance to heal after injury.
Riyana Straetker is an editorial assistant at Parents, who has not lost her distaste for hair accessories that are ugly or stupid. Follow her on Twitter here.