May 5, 2011

Heads Up: Parents are the first line of defense against concussion.

My boys play a lot of sports.  So far it has been my husband's decision to keep them out of tackle football because of his fear of them (really only the oldest has any interest) getting really hurt.  But the truth is, serious injury such as concussion can happen in ANY sport.  I LOVE that my boys are keeping active by playing team sports and I think the benefits really do out weigh the risks, but as parents it is our responsibility to do our best to keep our children safe.  

Check out this information from the CDC to learn more about concussions and what you can do to keep your children as safe as possible.

The CDC reminds us that traumatic brain injury (TBI), including concussion, is a serious public health problem in the United States.  Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Data shows that, on average, approximately 1.7 million people die, are hospitalized, or are seen in an emergency department for a traumatic brain injury annually. Almost half a million emergency department visits for TBI that occur each year are among children aged 0 to 14 years. 

Why is this important? Children and teens are more likely to get a concussion or TBI and take longer to recover than adults. 

So what is a concussion? A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can literally cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain. What you might not know is that these chemical changes make the brain more vulnerable to further injury. During this window of vulnerability the brain is more sensitive to any increased stress or injury, until it fully recovers.

It’s important for parents, athletes, and coaches to know about concussion. So what should you do if you think your teen has a concussion? CDC developed the following 4-step Heads Up Action Plan to help you protect your child or teen if you suspect they have a concussion:

1. Keep your teen out of play. If your child or teen has a concussion, her/his brain needs time to heal. Don’t let your child or teen return to play the day of the injury and until a health care professional, experienced in evaluating for concussion, says he or she is symptom-free and it’s OK to return to play. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first—usually within a short period of time (hours, days, or weeks)—can slow recovery or increase the likelihood of having long-term problems. In rare cases, repeat concussions can result in edema (brain swelling), permanent brain damage, and even death.

2. Seek medical attention right away. A health care professional experienced in evaluating for concussion will be able to decide how serious the concussion is and when it is safe for your child or teen to return to sports. 

3. Teach your child or teen that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. Rest is key after a concussion. Sometimes athletes wrongly believe that it shows strength and courage to play injured. Discourage others from pressuring injured athletes to play. Don’t let your child or teen convince you that s/he’s “just fine.”

4. Tell all of your child or teen’s coaches and the school nurse about ANY concussion. Coaches, school nurses, and other school staff should know if your child or teen has ever had a concussion. Your child or teen may need to limit activities while s/he is recovering from a concussion. Things such as studying, driving, working on a computer, playing video games, or exercising may cause concussion symptoms to reappear or get worse. Talk to your health care professional, as well as your child or teen’s coaches, school nurse, and teachers. If needed, they can help adjust your child or teen’s school activities during her/his recovery.

In addition to this, the Heads Up campaign includes tailored educational materials and messages developed for specific audiences, such as:  

To learn more about the Heads Up initiatives and to order your own materials, visit

As with all things, I think prevention is the BEST medicine.  While we can't prevent all injuries, especially if you kids play sports regularly, we can teach them some basic things to limit their risk.  Start early on, teaching your kids the safety rules of the sports they participate in. Our biggest key, especially for younger athletes has been to teach them to stay alert and paying attention to where the action is.  In our own experience the worst hits have happened by accident and usually involve someone not paying attention.   My oldest has been playing sports for 5 years and has played baseball, basketball, and flag football, while my middle son has played for 4 year and played baseball, flag football and soccer.  But the worst hit I have seen in all those games actually came at my oldest's first T-Ball game.  Thankfully everyone was ok, but I will never forget it and even though none of my children were involved, but heart skipped a beat when I saw it.  Two tiny little T-ball players, one on 2nd base and one on 3rd started running when the ball was hit.  But the player on 3rd started running back to 2nd.  Both were running hard and apparently neither were paying attention as they ran into each other at full speed and both crumpled to the ground.  It was like watching two NFL players collide but without all the protective gear.  Accidents will always happen but the more we work with our kids on the basics and encouraging them to stay alert, the less likely they are to be the cause.  If we all do our parts, we can help keep our kids safe from concussions.

Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in a SocialMoms blogging program for which I may receive a thank you kit.” For more information on how you can participate, click here.” 

1 comment:

  1. Head injuries are so scary! I cracked my head open when I was two years old on a kitchen cabinet, when my mom called the doctor before they took me to the ER - one thing they told here is to not let a child fall asleep that has a concussion 'just in case'.


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