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Published on April 14, 2017

Concussions and Kids: Facts Before Fears

Springtime youth soccer is a great way to greet the greening grass with a healthy dose of sprinting and scores. But the risk of concussions is another reality that players – and their parents – face in the sport.

Concussions are brain injuries that can happen in any sport. They usually occur when a player bangs his or her head against something or from a “whiplash-like” movement when you or your child falls or is tripped.

Avera Medical Group sports medicine and pediatrics physician Sam Schimelpfenig, MD, said awareness of concussions is growing, and offers the straight facts on this sometimes-scary injury.

“With soccer, we see more concussions that you might think. The usual cause is falls, like when players’ knees are taken out and they hit their head, or from trying to head the ball,” he said. “It’s especially common when two players bump heads.

The most common symptoms of concussions are headache, dizziness and mental confusion. Concussions are serious, and we’d encourage all players, coaches and parents to err on the side of caution and get any possible head injuries checked out with a doctor.”

Schimelpfenig said unconsciousness is not necessary to be diagnosed with a concussion.

Behavioral changes like increased irritability or depression, a lack of focus or an inability to sleep can be other signs of a concussion.

“Fortunately most concussions are short-lived, and the symptoms resolve in seven-10 days,” he said. “Because every injury and athlete is unique, your child’s doctor will need to make recommendations about how to treat the concussion and about when it’s OK to return to sports. When this injury lingers, it’s important to have it checked out at an emergency room, an urgent care or during an appointment.”

Go to an ER if your child or loved one with a head injury begins vomiting, acts bizarrely or if their headache gets worse. Or if you’re worried – remember, with brain injuries, it’s best to be cautious.

Know the facts:

  • While bulky, protective head gear for soccer helps reduce risk.
  • Kids should always leave the game and not return if a concussion is suspected; a second head injury can lead to a very serious condition known as second-impact syndrome.
  • Children should refrain from athletics and physical education while recovering from a confirmed concussion; in some cases, due to mental confusion, postponing tests or other school work is wise.
  • Concussions affect each person differently, and while there’s no established medical threshold for the number, people who have one may be more apt to have additional concussions.

“It’s a big deal, and with the NFL and films like ‘Concussion’ in pop culture, the word is getting around,” he said. “Concussions can lead to long-term consequences. The bottom line is safety first. Get medical attention.”

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