From t-ball and PeeWee football to competitive high school teams, sports play a major role in the lives of many young people. Sports can be a terrific way for children to learn teamwork and discipline. Athletics are also a great way to combat the growing threat of childhood obesity. However, childhood sports can also lead to injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to compound fractures. As a Panama City sports injury law firm, we think it is especially important for both parents and coaches to be on the lookout for head injuries and the threat of concussions in youth sports.
Diagnosing Concussions: One Tool Being Used in Florida Youth Sports
In a recent report, WJHG addressed the difficulty of identifying concussions in young athletes. Diagnosing concussion is crucial, in part because of the danger of subsequent injury. Even a minor second impact to the head that occurs before a concussion has fully healed can lead to Sudden Impact Syndrome. In this syndrome, the brain herniates and half of the young athletes impacted die on the playing field.
Surprisingly, as Dr. Paul Hart told WJHG, it can be difficult for emergency room doctors to determine whether a child has a concussion. The doctors may order an MRI or CAT scan, but a concussion is not a structural problem so it will not show up on either type of image. Diagnosing a concussion accurately involves testing what the brain is able to do before and after a head injury. An emergency room doctor and the parent of a young athlete, Dr. Hart notes that ERs simply don't have the time to do more in-depth cognitive testing.
One tool that coaches and parents can use to help diagnose concussion is ImPACT 101, a form of neuro-cognitive testing. Ideally, athletes take the test in advance of an injury and again after an impact. It is a twenty minute test and, according to Dr. Eddie Zant of Concussion Specialists, Inc., it can identify brain injury or impairment. Nearly every school district in Northwest Florida has adopted the test to some extent in their athletic departments.
A Broader Look at Brain Injury and Young People
Despite the difficulty of diagnosing concussions in the ER, the Center for Disease Control reports that ERs see an estimated 173,285 cases of sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injury ("TBI"), a category that includes concussions, in children and adolescents (age 0-19) each year. Such injuries have increased by 60% in the last decade alone. In a study of high school athletes, TBI rates were highest in football and girls' soccer. For younger children, those under age 9, playground play and bicycling are also common sources of TBI. The CDC also provides numerous fact sheets (including a section on baseline testing programs like ImPACT) aimed at helping parents, coaches, teen athletes, and even medical professionals identify and respond to concussions in young people.
Youth sports have become increasingly competitive, even in the case of the youngest athletes. It is vital that coaches and programs work to identify the causes of concussions and TBI to help prevent them before they happen. These groups must also learn to identify concussions and refuse to allow young people to play (including both practices and competitions) if there is any chance of concussion. We should also educate young athletes themselves and be sure to emphasize that health and safety must come before even the biggest "Big Game."
If you believe the actions of an individual or the policies of an organization led your child to suffer serious injury, including a secondary head injury following a concussion, please call our Panama City child sports injury lawyer. Where appropriate, a civil suit can help you recover monetary damages vital to paying for medical bills and the other costs of a serious injury.
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(Photo by Robbie Grubbs)