Home > Dementia risk, Early recognition, Medical issues, Prevention, Public awareness > A Step Forward in Recognition and Treatment of Concussions in Youngsters

A Step Forward in Recognition and Treatment of Concussions in Youngsters

Image courtesy Paul Gooddy @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.netToday is a red-letter day in the state of Ohio, where I happen to live.  A new law takes effect today, called the Return to Play law, which regulates when and how young athletes who suffer head injuries are allowed to return to the game.  The law came about as a result of several studies which showed that children were suffering more concussions than were previously thought, and that they were also suffering more long-term injuries.  (Those who have followed my writings know that concussions in young athletes is something that concerns me greatly.)

The new law applies to school sponsored and youth organizations.  It requires coaches and referees to have training on concussions, including how to recognize signs of a possible head injury.  Officials are to pull a player from the game if he/she shows any signs of head injury, and the player will not be allowed to return to the game until cleared by a doctor.

On the Ohio Department of Health’s website, there are a number of informational sheets for parents and officials regarding head injuries, how to recognize them, and what to do when a child is injured.  One of these, written for parents/guardians and athletes, gives a definition of what a concussion is, as well as a list of signs and symptoms (both as observed by others and as reported by the athletes).  There is a warning to seek medical attention right away, in order to determine the severity of the injury and when it is safe for the young athlete to return to playing/practicing.  It is stressed that no athlete should return to play on the same day he receives a concussion, and should never return to playing if he is still showing symptoms.

This information sheet addresses the dangers of Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) or Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS), which can occur when a player receives a second blow to the head before he has had a chance to fully recover from the initial injury.  This second impact can lead to much more serious brain damage, possibly of a long-term and permanent nature, or even death.

A player who has suffered a concussion should be placed in a period of physical and mental rest.  A brain that is recovering from a concussion must work longer and harder to complete even simple mental tasks.  Symptoms may become more problematic, and recovery may take a longer period of time, if the brain is required to take part in activities that require attention and focus.  Studies have shown that a student’s brain can take several weeks to heal following a concussion.

Parents are encouraged to see that their child gets plenty of rest, even to taking naps during the day if tired.  Activities that require a lot of thinking should be limited (including social activities, playing video games, homework, driving, and so on).  Physical activity should be restricted, especially if there is a risk of further injury to the brain.  The child should return to school on a limited basis, perhaps only half a day at first.  School personnel are given a list of problems to watch for, including having more difficulty paying attention and greater irritability.  The law requires that the child be cleared by his physician before returning to play/practice.  He/she should participate in a step-by-step exercise program supervised by a qualified professional, and a sample activity progression is supplied.

I am very impressed with the steps that my state has taken to protect its young people.  I do think that there is even more that can be done, but this is a good move in the right direction.  More states should take similar steps, if they have not already done so.

More information about the new law, and how it is to be implemented, can be found here.

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