The leading cause of death for children in the United States is injuries. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are one of the most dangerous accidents for children and teens mostly due to sports-related concussions.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A TBI is caused by a hit to the head or a head thrashing that jars the brain and interrupts normal brain functioning. Not every blow to a person’s head will lead to a TBI but there is varying severity of this condition:
- Mild : a minimal and short change in level of consciousness or mental status. Most concussions are in this category, but still can be dangerous if repeated injury occurs.
- Severe :a longer period of unconsciousness and/or forgetfulness post injury.
“The most recent CDC (Center of Disease Control and Prevention) data shows that an estimated 1.7 million deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits related to TBI occur in the United States each year. TBI is a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all injury-related deaths for all ages,” says Dr. Vikas Kapil who works in conjunction with the CDC.
Repeated mild TBI’s which occur over months or years can have deficits or neurological damage which can be accumulative. Some repeated brain injuries within hours, days or weeks can be fatal. Repeated concussions can cause brain swelling, permanent brain damage or death.
Signs and Symptoms of a Concussion
Physical – nausea, vomiting, headache, balance, hearing or vision problems, enlarged pupils
Memory Problems – not able to focus, a “slowing down” feeling, “fuzzy” memory of accident
Changes in Sleep Patterns – interrupted sleep, sleeping more or less than normal patterns
Any of these symptoms should be monitored carefully and the injured should be seen promptly by a medical provider.
Prevention and Intervention
“Heads Up” is an initiative developed by the CDC combined with other federal agencies, and professional associations.
One emphasis of the program, “Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports,” is for high school coaches, athletic trainers and directors. Educational sheets are provided and an awareness video is presented to young athletes and their coaches. These kits are for those who work with athletes aged 5 – 18 years.
The goal is to have more people on the sidelines at sporting events be able to recognize and appropriately react to concussions. Hopefully, if fewer concussions occur and athletes don’t have repeated injuries, their risk of permanent damage will lessen.
The National Football League and some state governments are getting involved in protecting our youth. Educating coaches, parents and teammates that concussions are not to be ignored may save lives.
Sports can be such a positive experience for children. Many forms of team exercise aid in physical strength, endurance, self-esteem, and confidence; but there are risks in some sports.
The federal and state governments are implementing new programs to protect our youth. To read more about concussions or traumatic brain injuries, refer to:
Source : Dr. Vikas Kapil -“Protecting School-age Athletes from Sports-Related Concussion Injury”- CDC – September 8, 2010