As science understands an increasing amount of knowledge on how the brain works and is impacted by injuries, the concern about sports concussions continues to grow. With the NFL taking a firm stand on concussions and new protocols being introduced to sports around the world to help handle potential injuries in a more judicious way, the unfortunate fact is that these protocols haven’t made their way to the youth levels as of yet.
210 kids were killed while playing sports from 2008-2011.
The problem isn’t necessarily the recognition that an injury has occurred. It’s that coaches and parents aren’t firm enough in their resolve to stop a student athlete from going back into a game. In some instances it’s even worse: the parents or coaches pressure an injured youth back into a game so a winning result can be achieved.
Three Facts You Need to Know About Youth Sports Safety
1. Approximately 8,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms every single day because of a sports-related injury.
2. High school athletes suffer over 2 million injuries every year.
3. High school football players are 3 times more likely to suffer a catastrophic injury than college athletes are.
Takeaway: Although 96% of Americans in a recent survey feel like it’s important for a medical professional to evaluate a young athlete before they begin playing a sport, 47% of schools today in the US fall short of recommended nurse-to-student ratios. There are many schools, in fact, that don’t even have a nurse or other medical professional on site. Why is this so important? Because 6 out of every 10 injuries that occur to kids during sports happen while they are at practice. With no immediate medical response standing by, the chances of suffering a profound, lifelong injury are a lot greater.
Why Are Concussion Injuries So Devastating?
1. 50% of concussion injuries that result in a secondary impact result in the death of the student athlete. This could be prevented by simply making sure the student athlete has fully healed from a concussion.
2. Female soccer athletes suffer 40% more concussion than male athletes do.
3. Female basketball athletes suffer 240% more concussions than male athletes do.
4. In the 2008-2009 school year, there were over 400k concussions that were reported that student athletes 18 and younger suffered.
5. Over 15% of football players who have sustained a Grade 3 concussion return later to play in the same game.
6. Visits to the ER for concussions has doubled for kids aged 8-13 since 1997 and tripled for kids 13-18.
7. In 2011, research found that 15% of all sports related injuries that occurred to high school athletes were concussions.
Takeaway: Girls seem to be more susceptible to concussion over boys, but every child is at risk for a concussion when playing a sport. That doesn’t mean kids should be placed in bubble wrap or kept home to play video games instead, but it does mean that precautions need to be taken that are common sense. If a football player gets knocked out in a game, then they sit out for the rest of the game. If girls are suffering a lot of concussions in a particular sport, look to increase the safety of that sport from a player perspective in some way. Concussion rates are likely going up because they are being recognized and reported much more frequently, which is a good thing, but it’s also time to take the next step: to treat a concussion as an injury instead of rubbing some dirt on the wound and sending the kid back into the game.
Why is it Important to Prevent Youth Concussions?
1. Youth athletes who have suffered a concussion are three times more likely to suffer a second concussion during the same season.
2. More than 249k kids visited emergency rooms in 2009 specifically for concussions or other traumatic brain injuries that were related to sports.
3. Sports and recreational activities account for 1 out of every 5 traumatic brain injuries that occur to children in the US.
4. Kids aged 16-19 sustain almost 30% of ALL sports related concussions recorded every year in every sport and age demographic.
5. Sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in kids behind motor vehicle accidents.
6. There are 67k diagnosed concussions in youth football every year.
7. Between 1931-2011, 678 high school football players were killed, 67% of them because of helmet-to-helmet collisions that occurred.
8. 11% of concussions in kids are thought to be repeat concussions.
Takeaway: It’s not necessarily the concussion that is the problem, although it can be. It’s the response to the concussion that is the issue. Instead of seeking medical help, kids go back and play some more. Instead of sitting out a practice or two, they get back into work because they feel like their starting spot is threatened. When more than a third of high school players report having more than one concussion per year and are at greater risks for memory reduction, confusion, and other permanent disabilities, it is critical to make sure that youth athletes are able to follow a concussion protocol that gets them the treatment they need. Nothing is more important than their future health. Nothing.
Some Final Facts to Consider
1. Kids who have a history of concussions take twice as long to recover from the symptoms of a concussion than those who experience their first concussion.
2. The CDC offers free tools to help coaches, parents, and students recognize and react to the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
3. Any sport can cause a concussion to occur.
4. 27% of parents do not take practice safety as seriously as they do the safety measures that are taken for games.
Takeaway: Concussions are no laughing matter and they can cause a lot of future problems. Sports like wrestling have repeat concussion rates as high as 20%, while catastrophic injuries occur much more regularly in youth athletes playing football than at any other level. Seeing a concussion, realizing it can take up to a month to fully heal, and then implementing a solid response to an injury is the only way to prevent them from occurring again.