High School, College Athletes More Likely to Suffer Concussions in Practice

Sports-related injuries are possible in the heat of the game, but have you thought about the risks your child may be taking during practice? A recent article published in JAMA focused on youth, high school and college football players found that the presence of concussions during practice is high enough to warrant concern.

Some universities are taking matters into their own hands to teach athletes safety techniques for the game, starting with practice time. Here’s what you should do to keep your son or daughter safe on the field.

What is a concussion?

According to the American Psychological Association, “a concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury” incurred when “the head receives a blow or violent shaking” and the brain often hits “the front and back of the skull. That movement can damage the brain’s connective tissues and disrupt normal cognitive function.” How will you know if you have one? Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headache, sensitivity to noise and light, and even vomiting. The APA suggests visiting a neuropsychologist should you suffer a concussion.

In the Journal of Athletic Training, an article from Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital notes that sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury (automobile accidents are the first). Both male and female athletes suffer from concussions incurred by contact with other players. It is important that preventive actions be taken in order to curb the number of sports-related injuries that occur both in practice and during the game. 

Preventing injury

How can you help to prevent a minor – or major – incident from happening both on and off the field? Make sure your child knows about the necessary equipment – mouthguards, helmets, kleats, etc. – and that he wears it regularly and effectively. Knowing the rules of the game is important as well – if your child confuses the rules, he could put himself in danger by being in the wrong place. Teaching your child the meaning of good sportsmanship is also necessary in preventing concussions or other injuries. When an athlete respects the game and respects himself and the other players on the field, he’ll be better able to maneuver and protect himself – and others.

Getting schools involved

What is your children’s school doing to help prevent concussions? There are a number of great initiatives being taken by various schools across the country. The University of Cincinnati uses vision training through a Dynavision electronic light board that helps athletes grow their peripheral vision. UC has seen a dramatic 85% decrease in the number of concussions in just six years.

At UCLA, researchers are developing a helmet with a new type of material, known as Architected Lattice. This microlattice material, “designed to replace the foam used inside of today’s football helmets, will help prevent concussion and traumatic brain injury by absorbing energy upon impact while limiting peak loads.”

At the University of New Hampshire, coaches are experimenting with practicing without helmets in an effort to enforce keeping the head out of harm’s way, as well as neck and shoulders. 

From the right equipment to scientific advances to simple good sportsmanship, there are a number of ways to help your child prevent concussions – the more actively engaged he or she is in the game and in protecting him or her self, the safer they will be.