As high schools in Alhambra wrap their regular football season and begin basketball and soccer, I would like to bring residents and parents’ attention to the impact these sports have had on players, particularly to the dangerous risk of concussions.
Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat approximately 173,285 sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries among children under 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Concussions among children and adolescents have increased in the last decade by 60 percent.
In high school sports, concussions occur most often in football, basketball, and soccer, according to the CDC. A New York high school football player died on Sept. 13 after being tackled during a game. He was one of three high school athletes to pass away that week from traumatic brain injury. In 2013, six high school athletes died from a head-related injury directly related to football, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.
The growing rate of head traumas and concussions in high school sports has caused some political figures to push regulation in high school athletics. In California, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1451 in August 2012, a law that requires all high school coaches to receive concussion training every two years to learn how to identify and respond to concussions.
While this law helps coaches spot symptoms of concussions on the field, some players feel symptoms one to two days after the occurrence. Parents, teachers, and peers should pay attention to any signs or symptoms that may indicate a head trauma. These signs can vary, but may include one or some of the following:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Confusion or blurry vision
- Slurred speech
If a parent or teacher notices any of the symptoms above, he or she should consult a physician immediately.
While contact sports pose a risk, there are ways to prevent concussions and head traumas. Neck strengthening exercises and balance training help reduce the risk of concussion. The goal is to strengthen the muscles in the neck to be strong enough to withstand the force of a ball, another person, or an inanimate object to the head without injury.
Sports are a fun way for students and the community to bond over spirited competition. Let’s keep these games and practices fun by helping to prevent head traumas and keep our student athletes healthy.
Dr. Jimmy Hang, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist and owner of Total Body Center in Alhambra.