Newswise — DALLAS – December 4, 2015 – With scholastic sports such as football now in full swing, the potential for head injuries increases. Unfortunately, an estimated 3.8 million recreational and athletic concussions occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Kathleen Bell, Co-Director of the Texas Institute for Brain Injury and Repair, Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and holder of the Kimberly-Clark Distinguished Chair in Mobility Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center, offers the following tips to help lower the risk of sports-related concussions:
• Know what a concussion is – A concussion is a strong force to the head that impairs brain function. There does not have to be contact for a concussion to happen, and in fact most concussions do not cause the person to be knocked out. Concussed athletes might appear dazed, stunned, slightly confused, or unable to follow directions. Go to http://www.utswmedicine.org/stories/articles/year-2015/concussion-complex.html for more information on symptoms of a concussion.
• Wear a helmet – Even at the youngest ages, football players wear helmets. Ironically, however, football players do not suffer the most concussions. Increasingly today, bicyclists and skateboard riders are being seen in hospital ERs for concussions. While wearing a helmet does not guarantee prevention of a concussion, doing so can help minimize injury.
• Make sure the helmet fits – A loose-fitting helmet or one that’s not in good condition is almost as bad as no helmet at all, since the head can impact the helmet itself and contribute to injury. Make certain the helmet is in good condition.
• Meet coaches and trainers – Parents should meet their child’s coaches and trainers, and discuss the school district’s or club’s concussion policy. At no age should a student athlete return to play the same day after experiencing a concussion, no matter how slight it might seem at the time. In Texas it is required that students experiencing a concussion sit out at least a week. When in doubt, sit it out!
• Train, train, train – Proper and adequate training before game time may prevent serious injuries. Children’s heads are proportionally larger than those of adults, and their neck muscles are not fully developed to support that weight. Good coaches and trainers teach players how to build those muscles. Parents should encourage repetition of exercises outside of formal practice.
• Work on skills development – There’s a right way to head a ball in soccer, make a block, or tackle in football. Parents should take time to observe team practices to be sure the coaches are teaching these critical skills with a focus on safety first, not scoring.
• Remember fatigue is a factor – When student athletes get tired, heads begin to droop, shoulders slump, and concussions can happen. Being in good condition before the game is the best way to fight fatigue, but if you see your son or daughter dragging across the field, it may be time to take them out for a break.
• Stay hydrated – Just like fatigue, dehydration can cause a student athlete to go limp, increasing the risk of concussion.
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to about 92,000 hospitalized patients and oversee approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.