You want your child to explore their interests fully and passionately. But you also want them to stay safe and free of injury.
So when your son or daughter tells you that they want to play a sport that raises their risk for concussion, you feel torn. When 53% of childhood concussions occur in kids who play sports, is it really safe to let your kid join the team?
David Lintner, MD, is a sports medicine specialist at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, who wants your kids to stay safe. He knows how important participating in sports is for a child’s physical and mental health. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your child safe from a concussion, no matter how they spend their after-school hours.
It's not just football
A concussion occurs any time the brain is jostled violently against the skull, causing a bruise. You don’t have to lose consciousness to have experienced a concussion.
Although football’s most often associated with concussions and TBIs due to how many former NFL players experience the consequence of head injuries, it’s not the only sport that can lead to a brain injury. In fact, soccer accounts for 13% of concussions in kids, while football accounts for 10%.
However, almost any sport or recreation where kids move quickly, jump, or make physical contact is associated with concussions. Cheerleading, for instance, accounts for 4% of pediatric concussions, especially as routines become ever more athletic, challenging, and exciting.
Protective equipment is a must
Wearing a helmet during sports that have a high incidence of concussions is non-negotiable. Even so, a helmet can’t completely protect against a concussion. Helmets reduce the impact of a blow or fall, but your child’s brain might still strike their skull.
Strengthen their neck muscles
Many concussions occur during a type of movement called whiplash — when the head moves back and forth very rapidly on the neck. Although whiplash often occurs in car crashes, you can experience whiplash during collisions with another person, such as during a football tackle, or any time your head moved rapidly from one direction to the next.
As part of your child’s fitness and strengthening routine, be sure they add neck-strengthening exercises, too. A strong neck can absorb shocks more readily so that the head isn’t thrown violently forward, back, or side to side. Our team can teach your child neck-strengthening exercises.
Awareness is essential
You and your child should have a serious discussion about concussions and TBIs. They should learn how to play effectively without putting themselves at risk. Be sure that your child’s coach teaches team members how to play and practice to limit their risk for a concussion.
Also, be sure that your child knows that they should come out of the game if they hit their head or are hit in the head while engaged in sports. They need to rest on the sidelines until the team doctor has a chance to examine them and determine whether they had a concussion or not.
Take care after a concussion
If your child experiences a concussion, be sure to have them see our team right away. They may need to relax at home for several days to be sure their brain has enough time to heal. They shouldn’t drive (if they’re teens) or engage in any activities that could cause a second concussion.
They also need to get a full night’s sleep. Encourage them to nap during the day if they feel sleepy. It is okay to sleep, you don’t need to awaken them to check on them. Sleep is helpful!
We have a team of specialists who care for concussed athletes, including Dr,. Vijay Jotwani 713-441-8850 as well as the Houston Methodist Concussion Center.713-441-8211.
Protect against other injuries, too
A concussion isn’t the only type of sports-related injury that can sideline your child. All sports run the risk of injuries, such as torn ligaments and tendons or fractures.
Finding more efficient ways to move as well as learning proper warm-ups and cool-down techniques are essential safety steps for all athletes of any age.
If your child plays sports, schedule a consultation at our office nearest you today in Houston or Baytown, Texas. We have a team of specialists that can help reduce their risk for repetitive use injuries and treat any minor or major acute injuries as soon as they occur.