Prevention, Education are Keys to Reducing Sports-related Concussions

August 30, 2010

With fall sports season right around the corner, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued recommendations to aid in the recognition and treatment of sports-related concussions, injuries that are common but often go underreported.

Did you know that football has the highest incidence of concussion, and that girls have higher concussion rates than boys do in similar sports? If not, you’re probably not alone.

With fall sports season right around the corner, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued recommendations to aid in the recognition and treatment of sports-related concussions. Although these injuries are common, they are underreported by pediatric and adolescent athletes, according to the report—“Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents”—which is published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Among the many findings from Mark E. Halstead, MD, and Kevin D. Walter, MD, of the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness is the fact that “young athletes are more susceptible to the effects of a concussion because their brains are still developing, and appropriate management is essential for reducing the risk of long-term complications.”

Although preventing all concussions is unlikely, there are several ways to reduce the risk, said the report, including wearing protective gear such as helmets and mouth guards; adhering to the rules of the sport; identifying athletes at risk; and educating parents, teachers, athletes, school administrators and trainers about the dangers of concussions.

“A clear understanding of the definition, signs, and symptoms of concussion is necessary to recognize it and rule out more severe intracranial injury,” according to Halstead and Walter.

Specific recommendations from the report are as follows:

  • Children or adolescents who sustain a concussion should always be evaluated by a physician and receive medical clearance before returning to play.
  • After a concussion, all athletes should be restricted from physical activity until they are asymptomatic at rest and with exertion. Physical and cognitive exertion, such as homework, playing video games, using a computer or watching TV may worsen symptoms.
  • Symptoms of a concussion usually resolve in 7 to 10 days, but some athletes may take weeks or months to fully recover.
  • Neuropsychological testing can provide objective data to athletes and their families, but testing is just one step in the complete management of a sport-related concussion.
  • There is no evidence proving the safety or efficacy of any medication in the treatment of a concussion.
  • Retirement from contact sports should be considered for an athlete who has sustained multiple concussions, or who has suffered post-concussive symptoms for more than three months.

For more information:

  • DrPullen.com—Concussions: Brains are Important
  • medGadget.com—A Simple Test for Concussion Diagnosis
  • Information about Concussion for Healthcare Providers
  • Misconceptions Common with Pediatric Concussions