RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Head impacts and concussions caused by contact sports are a quickly growing epidemic among young athletes.
Concussions shouldn’t be treated as though they’re just bad headaches. When left undetected, concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even prove fatal.
Sports concussions are on a dramatic rise – 20 percent of high school athletes will sustain a concussion this year. More than 33 percent of sports-related concussions happen during practice.
A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs when a blow to the head jars the brain inside the skull.
The brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by spinal fluid within the skull. The fluid acts like a cushion during normal movement. If the head or body receives a significant hit, the brain may crash into the skull and sustain injury.
When the brain crashes into the skull, delicate neural pathways in the brain can become damaged, causing symptoms.
Concussions are not always obvious, and it can be hard to determine when an athlete has sustained a concussion. While some people may pass out after sustaining a concussion, most do not. Approximately 90 percent of diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness.
Concussion symptoms can range from very mild to severe, and can last for days, weeks, or longer.
To help prevent a concussion or head impact, make sure your child wears the proper protective gear for each activity.
Wearing a helmet is a must in many sports activities. To aid in concussion prevention, be sure the helmet fits properly and is well maintained. Helmets help to prevent head injuries, but no helmet is concussion-proof.
It’s also important to teach proper tackling techniques – heads up.
Make sure that if a possible concussion has been sustained, the athlete must be evaluated immediately by medical personnel and must pass a screening exam prior to rejoining the team.
After a concussion, returning to sports and school is a gradual process that should be carefully managed and monitored by a health care professional.
Here are some sports concussion statistics:
- 3,800,000 concussions reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002
- 33 percent of all sports concussions happen at practice
- 39 percent – the amount by which cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability
- 47 percent of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football
- 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season
- 33 percent of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year
- 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes
- 90 percent of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness