In early February, the U.S. celebrates the truly American sport of football. Recently we’ve heard some pretty tragic stories about the effects of head injuries on professional football players but did you know that regular people who play contact sports or participate in activities like skateboarding or snowboarding are also at risk? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about sports-related head injuries and how to reduce your risk:
Facts About Concussions:
- Most sports-related concussions occur during high school football; and most of those occur during practice
- Having a concussion increases your risk of getting one in the future (and subsequent concussions continue to increase your risk)
- Ninety percent of sports-related head injuries do not involve a loss of consciousness
- Repeated “mild” concussions can cause serious, permanent injury to the brain
Why it Matters:
It doesn’t matter your age, which activity (football, skateboarding, cheerleading, soccer) or whether you just play for fun: the results of a concussion can affect you for the rest of your life. Long-term problems (lasting weeks, months or years) can include issues with attention, memory and higher-order thinking; headaches; depression and anxiety; dizziness; motor skill and vision impairment. People who sustain multiple concussions have a greater risk of experiencing long-term brain damage; but a small number of people may have permanent problems after just one injury.
Prevention and Treatment:
Here are a few ways to lower the risk of sports-related head traumatic-brain injury.
- Wear a helmet: Helmets don’t make you concussion-proof; but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The trick is to have the right one, and to wear it consistently and correctly.
- Use proper technique: If you’re wearing the right gear, the next step is to play in a way that will help you to avoid head injury in the first place. Play fair and follow the rules prohibiting certain kinds of contact to keep the activity safe for all players.
- Know the risk: Anyone who plays contact sports or participates in risky recreational activities should know exactly what they’re getting into, and that includes children and adolescents. Educate yourself and your loved ones, and give young people the option to choose a different activity. Bottom line: be sure that when you decide to participate, it’s with a full understanding of the risks.
- Say no: Are you or your child going to be professional athletes? Probably not. Every person and family is different, but in some cases, it might be the right decision to find a different activity especially if you or your loved one has experienced multiple injuries.
- Never hide an injury: Studies show that players of all ages are inclined to hide their symptoms and often continue playing because they fear being seen as weak or letting their teammates down. Teach young people to report their injuries no matter what, and be an example by doing the same yourself.
- Have a plan: If you think you or somebody you care about may have a concussion, it’s important to know what to do next. Stop playing and report the injury right away, and don’t return to the activity until you are cleared by a medical professional and have fully recovered from your symptoms.