Q: How can I protect my kids from concussion while they are playing fall sports?
A concussion is a serious injury, so it’s important to take steps to protect kids from head injuries. While most children make a complete recovery, the long-term effects can be more severe with repeated concussions. And once a child has experienced a first concussion, they are more likely to have another in the future.
Studies show that half of all childhood concussions are related to sports. If possible, put off participation in contact sports that allow hitting until after age 12. Or look for programs emphasizing conditioning and building skills like agility and coordination while limiting full-contact practice. Older children and teens are more capable than younger kids of learning the skills and techniques to play safely and avoid dangerous hits.
It’s always a good idea to make sure kids wear safety equipment that is in good condition and fits them properly. However, you should know that helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures and severe brain injuries and do not necessarily offer good protection against concussions. That is why kids need to play safely even if they are wearing helmets.
If your child does take a hit during practice or a game, look for signs of concussion and remove them from play and let their doctor know they have suffered a head injury. A doctor can determine if imaging such as an MRI or CT is needed, and help you figure out when the child can return to normal activities.
Teach your child what a concussion might feel like and to let you know if they experience these symptoms after hitting their head. Common symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headache, emotional changes, light and noise sensitivity, and difficulty focusing or remembering things. Most children recover from concussions within one to two weeks. Talk with your child’s doctor if symptoms continue.
Also, your child might be nervous to tell anyone they hit their head out of fear of missing a game. You should remind them it is important to be honest and get checked out- it is better to miss one game than miss a whole season!
Maui Health’s Trauma Program provides community outreach and education around injury prevention with a goal of reducing trauma-related injuries amongst our residents and visitors. Classes are available to the public, including fall prevention and Stop the Bleed training, and an injury prevention coordinator may be available to provide education for special events. For more information, visit mauihealth.org/trauma