Brain injuries are often severe and can leave a person with permanent disabilities. They happen in a variety of ways, but sports-related brain injuries are very common in the United States. Awareness of brain injuries has risen in the United States over the last decade thanks to research on sports-related incidents. However, we still have a long way to go and can do a much better job at preventing these injuries, especially in children.
What happens to a brain injury victim?
There are more than 5.3 million people in the US living with disabilities caused by brain injuries. Over 50,000 people die each year due to brain injuries. The effects of brain injuries vary widely depending on the severity of the injury. Those suffering from a brain injury can experience:
- Memory loss
- Difficulties speaking
- Cognitive impairment
- Depressions and anxiety
- Loss of bodily function
- Organ failure
- Emotional or psychological problems
We need to talk about concussions
There are an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions each year in the United States, and they occur primarily in children. Concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries. Attention has been paid to youth sports lately concerning concussions thanks to the CDC to issue new guidelines for treating student athletes with head injuries.
Many children play sports for school or recreation leagues. Some sports are more likely to see players sustain concussions, but any blow to the head can result in a brain injury. Some common ways concussions happen in children
- Helmet-to-helmet tackles in football
- Heading a soccer ball incorrectly
- Skateboarding or bike crashes
- Cheerleading miscalculations
- Getting hit in the head with a baseball
Our brains are soft, and the body protects the brain by cushioning it in cerebrospinal fluid. The brain essentially floats on this fluid inside our skulls. When a fall or collision makes the brain bang against the skull, it can bruise the brain, tear blood vessels, and injure nerves. The symptoms of a concussion include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Bothered by light
Prevention is the key to safety
Whether dealing with youth sports or adult leagues, it is important to take steps to prevent brain injuries and concussions. This can include:
- Enforcing the rules of the game to ensure safe play. As many as 25% of concussions reported in high school athletes were the result of illegal or aggressive play.
- Ensure that the proper protective equipment is provided for all players or purchased by the player.
- Ensuring a team has established proper concussion protocols that follow CDC guidelines.
What to do if you suspect a brain injury or concussion
If a coach or parent suspects an athlete may have sustained a concussion, they should:
- Remove the athlete from the game or activity immediately. The effects of a concussion are cumulative, meaning that a player who receives another blow to the head before they have healed is much more likely to sustain a serious brain injury.
- Not allow the athlete to return to play the same day as the injury. As many as 7 in 10 young athletes report playing with concussion symptoms.
- Not allow the player to return until cleared by a healthcare provider.
- Record and share information about the injury.
- Ensure the player and their family knows the importance of continuing medical care and following a doctor’s orders.