Keep kids safe from injury that 20 percent of teens have had

A new study in the Journal of American Medical Association from the University of Michigan asked students in grades eighth, ninth, and 10th if they had ever had a concussion. Almost 20 percent said they had. 

What’s going on with our teens? Is it all sports related?

Football still has the highest incident of concussion, a 2017 study found. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN 2014

Dr. Robert Vezzetti, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at Dell Children’s Medical Center, says part of what’s going on is that we’re doing a better job of educating parents, coaches and students about what a concussion is, leading to more diagnoses.

A concussion is basically “taking your brain and shaking it,” he says. That releases inflammatory particles that damage the brain. You might feel nausea or vomit, have a headache, have blurry vision, feel achy or fatigue.

Many people think that if you have a concussion you would pass out. That’s not the case with all concussions, he says.

You also don’t have to one large hit. It could be a series of hits.

Concussions also don’t only happen to football players on the field. Girls in sports actually have higher rates of concussions and their concussion symptoms last longer. 

Vezzetti also sees plenty of kids come in with concussions that had nothing to do with playing sports. It depends on the time of the year. Yes, in August and September, he might see more kids with sports-related concussions, but in other times of the year it could be hitting your head while diving into a pool, falling from a playground or from a car accident.

“You can get a concussion just by falling down or running into a door,” he says.

If you think your young football player is safe because they have a helmet, know this: a helmet doesn’t protect from concussion. It can prevent a skull fracture or a bleed in the brain, but a concussion is about the movement of the brain within the skull. A helmet can’t protect against that.

Vezzetti does have these recommendations to limit your concussion risk:

Practice good hydration and nutrition and good conditioning.

In football, hit with the shoulders, not with the head and neck.

Be mindful what’s around you; know where the baseball is before it hits you.

If you’re having symptoms, tell someone and don’t go back in and play.

It’s also a good idea to use safety equipment such as mats and spotters in wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading.

For younger kids, be a spotter on the playground and don’t allow them to climb up too high. 

Once kids have a concussion, they should avoid physical activity until they are better as well as to limit screen time and give extra time to do homework.

Some kids will be better within days, others take weeks, he says. Dell Children’s has a concussion clinic to help them return to activity.