How to Protect Your Child from Sports Concussions

56381896Parents often ask Devin Spears, lead athletic trainer at Memorial’s SportsCare, how they can keep their children from getting injured during football season.

“The only thing I can guarantee you is if I put your child in a suit of armor and stand your child in the corner of the end zone, I could pretty much guarantee you they’re not going to get hurt,” Spears said.

“But we know that’s not a reality,” Spears explained during a recent interview with Bob Murray on radio station WTAX. One of the best ways, however, to minimize the damage that young athletes receive when they’re on the field is to make sure their equipment fits and that they are wearing it correctly.

Chin straps should be strapped correctly, for example. If your children wear air helmets, make sure they have the right amount of air in them, Spears said. When the weather cools, children often pump extra air into their helmets because the air has condensed.

“The problem with that is as soon as you start to heat up and heat escapes from your head, now this air’s going to expand,” Spears said. “Now this helmet’s not going to fit right. This is going to set these kids up for possible injury.”

And in any sport where there’s contact, one of those possible injuries is concussion. The long-term cumulative effect of concussions isn’t known, Spears said. We don’t know how these injuries will effect young athletes by the time they’re in their 40s or 50s.

“The top three sports that we see the majority of concussions are for football and soccer and – the third one is one that a lot of people don’t think about – baseball,” Spears said.

The leading sign that your child may be suffering from a concussion is a headache. Many parents assume their child is fine if all they have is a headache after an injury, Spears said. “My response is if you got a headache from a blow to the head, you’ve damaged your brain.”

Other signs may include an inability to focus, dilated pupils, nausea, dizziness, balance issues or sensitivity to light or sound. Children may sleep a lot after a concussion and may have a loss of appetite. It can also affect them emotionally.

“A lot of parents will … say, ‘You know, he just doesn’t seem like himself or she just isn’t that bubbly personality that we normally see,’” Spears said.

If you suspect a concussion, “the first thing you probably should do is if you have an athletic trainer within the structure of your school, you should let this individual know about it,” Spears said. You can also take your child to the emergency department or have their pediatrician check them out.