As concussion awareness becomes more prevalent, many parents wonder what steps they can take to prevent sports concussions from happening to their children.
While there is no one way to prevent a sports concussion, parents and young athletes can still take steps to minimize their risk.
Follow sport rules and use proper equipment
"Many concussions within sporting events happen because someone is not following the rules the way they are supposed to," says Christine Ellis, APRN, CPNP-PC at Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
Before your child plays a sport, check the following to reduce concussion risk:
- Make sure the playing surface is well-kept and does not contain holes or divots in the ground that could cause athletes to fall or trip.
- Ensure that all equipment, including helmets and padding, fits properly.
- Understand that children are different than adults and are constantly growing and changing. Recognize that strength and control of the head improves as children develop.
Communicate with coaches
Your young athlete spends a significant amount of time in practice and it is important to encourage communication with his or her coaching staff about concussion protocol and the proper steps to take if your child gets hit in the head during a game.
"Coaches and schools need to be aware of the seriousness of a concussion," says Shelby, whose son, Colin, suffered a basketball-related sports concussion. "At my son's school, they have a concussion protocol that they follow very closely. I think all coaches need to take a head bump seriously; they need to make sure that they are making the best choices for the child returning to the game, rather than the competition."
Get educated about concussions
There's a lot of information out there in regard to concussions, but it is important to speak with your pediatric specialist or medical provider to understand what symptoms to look for in determining whether your child could be suffering from a concussion.
"I think that educating parents is the greatest asset that we have with concussion," says Scott Burkhart, Psy.D., Neuropsychologist and Concussion Expert at Children's Health Andrews Institute. "We want those parents to understand and recognize concussion because it will allow us to treat the injury efficiently and effectively."
Troy M. Smurawa, M.D., Director of Pediatric Sports Medicine at Children's Health Andrews Institute, agrees.
"Kids can safely play sports as long as the coaches, the athletes, and the parents are aware of what a concussion is, how to minimize the risk of sustaining a concussion, as well as recognizing when a concussion occurs and what to do immediately afterwards," says Dr. Smurawa.
Remember the benefits of sports
"I want parents to know that kids receive such a huge benefit from being part of a team, learning how to problem solve and building resiliency. They receive so many benefits from playing in these sports that the risk of concussion shouldn't hold them back," Ellis says.
While concussions may be scary for parents, Dr. Burkhart says with the influx of information about sports concussions, as well as a plan for management, they don't need to be.
"The key is how you manage a concussion," he says. "The way we manage an athlete now varies wide from how we managed athletes in 1990. Medicine should progress and we are learning more about concussion constantly."
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine aims at reducing the number of children being sidelined from injury. Learn more about our programs and services.
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