Concussion Discussion: What is a Concussion and How Can I Prevent Them?

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    By: Amy Franzwa

    As a parent, who admittedly skews on the worrisome side, I fear that my children are going to be injured playing sports. “Sports activities are the second most frequent cause of injury for both male and female adolescents” claims the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation. Concussions are the most common type of traumatic brain injuries and their prevention is a hot topic in sports safety. Needless to say, concussions are at the top of my “injuries to prevent” list!

    What is a Concussion?
    I figure if I want to prevent them from happening, I should probably know exactly what they are so I did a little research. Concussions vary in severity, but generally speaking a concussion is a short-lived loss of brain function resulting from head or body trauma that shakes the brain.

    Do Concussions Have Long-Term Effects?
    The long-term effects of concussions are currently being debated among doctors and scientists.
    It IS universally agreed upon that repeated concussions are more likely to result in more lasting implications. Either way, the interruption of my child’s brain function for ANY duration of time in even the most minor way doesn’t appeal to me…at all!

    Ways to Prevent a Concussion
    The good news is that there are simple ways to reduce the risk of concussion.  A no-brainer (no pun intended) is for your child to wear a helmet whenever they’re on the field or court. On the plus side, helmets are a requirement for some sports and I don’t understand why it’s not a universal rule!? Until that happens, parents must strongly encourage helmet use during all activities, particularly those that have more potential for contact like football and hockey.  A higher success rate is likely with younger kids who have no definition of what “cool” is. Your teenage son or daughter is going to resist sporting head gear on the soccer field.

    Choosing a quality program with qualified coaches and instructors is another way to ensure a higher level of safety. They're more likely to be enforcing safety rules and proper play. But there is no guarantee and if I find myself witness to improper coaching or management of an activity, I don't plan to be shy. I'd rather be "that" mom who speaks up to a slacking coach or referee than a mom rushing my kid to the ER.

    One of our many jobs as parents is to foster our children’s interests. However, if you want to prevent concussions, you might want to steer their general enthusiasm for sports into activities less likely to produce head impacts like swimming, track or golf. Hockey, football and baseball are top sports to avoid. Better yet, buy them a trumpet or fishing pole for their next birthday and you’re more likely to prevent a brain injury.

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