According to Brad Thorson, former NFL lineman for the Arizona Cardinals, “The NFL has evolved in its awareness and management of players concussions, youth sports needs to follow the NFL’s leadership.”
In 2012, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 2,000 NFL players accusing the NFL of negligence and failing to notify players of the link between concussions and brain injuries. Six years later in 2018, the NFL reported that the incidence of concussions went down 29% due to implementing rule changes that require the kicking team players, during kickoff, to remain still until the ball is kicked, as well as a rule that forbids players from initiating contact using their helmets.

Working in healthcare for as long as I have, I frequently get questions about concussions and brain injuries. A common question I often get is: “Is it safe for my child to play football?” Here is what you should know:

1. What is a concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, usually caused by a blow to the head. It may or may not involve a loss of consciousness.

2. What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Symptoms include (but are not limited to) headache, memory loss, confusion, dizziness or “seeing stars,” ringing in the ears, appearing dazed, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms that may not develop immediately include issues concentrating, irritability, sensitivity to noise and light, sleep disturbances, psychological adjustment problems, and depression.

3. I’ve heard talk about CTE in NFL players. How is it different from a concussion?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition associated with repeated blows to the head. Symptoms include issues with memory and cognition, personality changes and behavioral changes including aggression. There is no cure for CTE, and it can only be prevented by avoiding repeated head injuries. CTE is associated with an increased risk of dementia.

4. What do I do if I think my child has a concussion?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should “call your child’s doctor for anything more than a light bump on your head.”

Any child or adult who displays the following symptoms should seek emergency care:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness greater than 30 seconds
  • Headache that worsens over time
  • Changes in physical coordination
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Slurred speech

5. Is it safe for my child to play football or other contact sports?
The verdict on this is mixed. Some experts say that the health benefits of playing sports and engaging in physical activity outweigh the risks of possible concussion. Others warn against contact sports, such as football.

6. If my child had a concussion, how long until he or she can play sports again?
It is crucial that athletes do not return to play sports or perform vigorous activities while they are still having signs and symptoms of a concussion. He or she should be cleared by a medical professional before returning to play.

Important to note is that there is a phenomenon called second impact syndrome, which is when a second concussion occurs before the first one has healed. It is often fatal and can result in severe disability.

For more information, contact Better Health Advisors.

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