When we wrote about kids and concussions a while ago, the discussion concerned the rising awareness of how getting your head banged during an athletic competition can lead to traumatic brain injury, and that sports equipment manufacturers were responding by designing more protective gear.
How quaint. As of last week, the guidelines for treating kids who suffer a head injury on the field of play have become more stringent. At least that’s what the American Academy of Neurology advises.
As reported by the Associated Press, when athletes are suspected of having a concussion, they should be taken out of action immediately and shouldn't resume playing until they've been fully evaluated and cleared by a doctor or other professional with concussion expertise.
The academy’s recommendations support a position paper it issued in 2010, but the new guidelines are a more complete document for evaluating and managing a head injury based on a comprehensive review of scientific research.
The guidelines replace those published 15 years ago that advised grading the severity of a concussion at the time of injury as a way to measure when the player could return to the game. The new recommendations emphasize individual player assessment and management of the injury when it occurs, and are not flexible about returning to play: Don’t do it.
Athletes should not be allowed back into the game if they show any symptoms, such as dizziness, muddled thinking, blurry vision, headaches or nausea. The guidelines also say players of high school age or younger with a diagnosed concussion should wait much longer to return to action than older athletes.
AP pointed out that the research showed that the grading system didn't provide useful information about outcomes, and that recovery from concussion is not predictable—some people recover faster than others. But the first 10 days after a concussion, according to the guidelines, are when a player is at the highest risk of getting a second concussion
And getting that concussion before the first one is healed can lead to longer periods of disabling symptoms. Sometimes the damage, including mental impairment, memory loss, headaches and mood disorders, can be permanent.
So, parents, coaches and trainers, if a child of yours bangs his or her head in the course of the game and is seeing stars, having trouble with balance, unable to focus or complaining of headache, that child does not belong in the contest that day and for days to come. At least.
If your child’s coach (or any other authority) encourages him or her to just shake it off and get back into the game, it’s time to find another place to play.
To learn more about concussions, link here on website of the American Academy of Neurology.