Here’s one small thing you can do today for better health: Report sports concussions immediately during practice or play to a coach or trainer to ensure symptoms don’t worsen and to reduce the risk of subsequent injuries.
Why you need to do it: It’s safer now than ever before to play contact sports, says Dr. Vernon Williams, director of sports neurology and pain medicine at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, thanks to better understanding of and testing for sports concussions, plus legislation on return-to-play rules.
However, the cumulative effects of concussions are a concern among physicians and scientists. Studies suggest that sustaining multiple concussions may increase the odds of having cognitive problems such as confusion and memory problems.
What you can do: “It’s important to report and be aware of symptoms,” Williams says. “In my practice, the kids and adolescents who seem to have the biggest problems recovering from concussions have some symptoms that weren’t reported or treated properly. Then they continue to play and have another blow that continues to make things worse.”
While competitive sports culture may encourage tough-it-out behavior, Williams says that may create more problems down the road. Even if symptoms appear minimal, such as a mild headache, the coach or trainer should be told because it could be a sports concussion.
“If you stress the brain while it’s trying to recover from an injury, you can make things worse,” he says. “If you get a mild bump while you’re in the process of recovering from a concussion, you can turn symptoms that would have lasted two or three days into symptoms that last for weeks.”
Although players may think they’re helping by staying in the game after being injured, they may actually be doing the team a disservice. “You can’t perform at your peak,” Williams says. “Your processing is slower and you’re not as good an athlete.”
What's your attitude toward allowing kids to play contact sports? Let us know in the comments.