August 21, 2013

Get in the Game When it Comes to Concussion Awareness

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

With summer winding down, parents all over the U.S. are dropping off their sons and daughters at practice for fall sports like football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cheerleading. But while we love to see our kids exercise and excel in team sports, we as parents, school administrators and coaches need to be aware of the dangers of concussions and ways at preventing them. August is Neurosurgery Outreach Month and Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance wants you to know more about the dangers of head injuries, specifically concussions.

First some numbers. According to the University of Pittsburgh's Brain Trauma Research Center, more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur each year in the U.S. The center also says the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent per year of play. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) says sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and teens. In high school sports alone, the AANS says more than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports.

Dr. Mitchel S. Berger is president of the AANS and says, "Regardless of your age, sport or competitive level, concussion and head trauma injuries are something that can occur to anyone." 
Concussions are injuries to the brain usually caused by a blow to the head and they can result in loss of normal brain function. Those who have suffered a concussion will often not be able to remember what happened immediately before or after the injury. The AANS points out that a concussion can affect memory, judgment, vision, reflexes, speech, balance and muscle coordination. The association says "there is no such thing as a 'minor concussion.'" Other concussion symptoms include prolonged headache, ringing of the ears, sensitivity to light and loss of smell or taste. If someone you know experiences any of these symptoms after a blow to the head, they should consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Do you have a football player in the family? Dr. Berger serves as a member of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee and says, "While football is a collision sport with inevitable risks, most serious neurological injuries can be prevented if players, parents and coaches take injury prevention and concussions seriously."

Football gets much of the publicity when it comes to head injuries but the AANS says while neurological injuries associated with other sports such as women's soccer, volleyball and cheerleading are less prevalent, they can be just as devastating. According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, women's soccer is second to football in the greatest number of concussions reported by school-age athletes.

One of the best steps toward prevention is awareness. AANS spokesman Kevin Lillehei says, "Educating the public is one of the best weapons we have when it comes to combating these types of injuries." The AANS also stresses using the right helmets and protective headgear. It should be approved by the American Society of Testing Materials International (ASTM) for specific sports 100 percent of the time. Approved helmets will carry the ASTM sticker. Wear helmets and headgear that fit properly so they can provide maximum protection.

The AANS says helmets or headgear should be worn at all times for baseball and softball, cycling, football, hockey, horseback riding, inline skating, powered recreational vehicles, skateboards and scooters, skiing and snowboarding and wrestling.

Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance wishes all of those playing competitive sports this fall a successful season but reminds athletes, parents, coaches and administrators to learn the symptoms of head injuries and concussions and ways to prevent them.

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