The issue of head injuries among professional football players has been in the news recently, with the NFL hit by a series of lawsuits brought by players who accuse the organization of covering up the risk and seriousness of brain trauma for decades. The lawsuits were prompted by a growing body of research showing that blows to the head can lead to major health problems later in life.
Professional football players aren’t the only segment of society impacted by sports-related brain trauma. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), sports and recreational activities are associated with about 21 percent of all traumatic head injuries among American children and teens.
Statistics from the AANS show that cycling rather than football or basketball is the leading cause of sports-related head injuries. The fact that about a quarter of head injuries occur while cycling could be due in large part to a lack of concern about taking precautions, including wearing a helmet. After cycling, the leading sports where brain injuries occur are football, baseball, and basketball, followed by water sports and soccer. Other types of vehicles, such as powered RVs, skateboards, and scooters, also made it to the top ten list of activities causing head injuries.
No matter how a head injury occurs, parents and adults who work with children need to recognize the signs and get medical help. Losing consciousness is a clear sign of possible brain trauma, but there are also more subtle symptoms such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, confusion, and memory loss.
Instead of encouraging a child or teenager to “get back into the game” following a hit to the head or collision, a trip to the emergency room may be warranted. A child with an undiagnosed concussion is at increased risk for disability and brain damage, especially if another concussion occurs before the first has healed.