Sports have traditionally provided talented kids with a ticket out of town. Having the chance to parlay their prowess at football and other contact sports into a free education and a shot at playing pro ball is the best opportunity that many young athletes will have.
But that opportunity does not come without a cost. And as many researchers are now discovering, some of these kids could wind up paying with their lives.
The risk of concussion is real
As any parent of a high school athlete involved in contact sports can tell you, today's athletes are at high risk of suffering concussions during their sports careers.
As many as 2 million kids in America suffer concussions annually. While not all happen while playing sports — falls and wrecks contribute to the total — enough do that should give players and parents of players pause. Add to that total the myriad of unreported concussions in student athletes who want to keep on playing after a hard hit, and there is a real problem.
One pediatrician who practices in northern Ohio's Cleveland Clinic Children's treats as many as 20 concussions per week in autumn. A large percentage of his patients were injured playing sports.
Treatment protocols changing
In the past, concussions were graded as mild, moderate and severe, with different treatment guidelines and recommendations. Today's doctors now prescribe a concussion protocol for all patients with suspected head injuries.
Because all concussions involve traumatic injuries to the brain, they can be potentially devastating. Here's how to recognize symptoms of concussion in your kids.
After a blow on the field (in the ring or on the court, etc.), look for signs of personality changes that might manifest as anxiety or uncharacteristic nervousness, photosensitivity, problems concentrating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Any child who throws up more than a single time, or who has problems with speech or walking needs to be medically evaluated in the emergency room (ER).
Even if an ER visit isn't called for, all kids' head injuries should be checked out by their pediatricians. They likely will run a battery of tests to rule out or confirm concussion as a diagnosis. But even tests like CT scans and MRIs don't necessarily indicate concussion even when there clearly has been some neurological trauma.
What the treatment entails
Kids generally hate concussion protocols because they call for total brain rest for as long as 10 days, with no screen time of any kind — even TV. But not all children will have to rest that long. Younger children tend to bounce back the fastest.
If your son or daughter suffered a serious traumatic brain injury while playing high school sports, the recovery can be prolonged and extensive. Treatment can also be costly, so consider all of your options for seeking financial compensation from any liable parties.