Willingham: What student athletes should know
By Daniel Willingham
If you’re the parent of a student athlete, read on.
Concussions in high school athletics have been in the news, with coverage in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. The House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on the subject last May.
Between 1997 and 2007, emergency room visits for concussions associated with organized athletics doubled for kids 8 to 13, and tripled for kids aged 14 to 19.
In 2008-2009, high school athletes suffered something like 400,000 concussions.
Researchers are guessing that the rapid increase is primarily due to better reporting than to an actual increase in injuries. Still, it highlights the prevalence of the problem.
Concussion can lead to a broad array of cognitive consequences (e.g., problems with memory and concentration), emotional consequences (depression, anxiety) and other symptoms (e.g., headache, dizziness), which usually resolve within a month, but on occasion are long-lasting.
The long-term consequences of repeated concussion remain unknown.
Last week the American Academy of Neurology released a position statement on sports concussion. Neurologists are the doctors who diagnose and treat concussion, so their view on the matter is obviously of some importance.
They make five recommendations, paraphrased here:
1) An athlete suspected of having a concussion should not play until he or she has been seen by a physician who is knowledgeable about sports concussions.
2) An athlete should not participate if he or she is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion.
3) An athlete who has had a concussion should be cleared to play only by a physician with training in sports concussions.
4) A certified athletic trainer should present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion.
5) Athletes, parents, and coaches need to be better educated in the understanding of concussion.
A spokesperson for the neurologist’s group says he understands that these five recommendations are aiming high. For example, only 40% of schools have a certified athletic trainer.
But if I were the parent of a student athlete at risk for concussion, I’d ask my child’s coach or the athletic director at the school what is being about the issue.
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| November 8, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories: Daniel Willingham, Guest Bloggers, Sports
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