The State of Head Trauma Among Student Athletes

Participating in sports can add an important dimension to a child’s life. In addition to boosting self-confidence and fostering a lifelong interest in physical fitness, lessons learned on the playing field can help children become cooperative team members and better leaders.

Unfortunately, some sports carry a high risk of hard hits that can result in injuries. Adult supervision and adherence to safety guidelines can reduce accidents, but the nature of some sports means the threat of head trauma can never be completely removed. Each year, 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions are reported, and roughly half of those hospitalized as the result of a concussion are younger than age 24.

Concussions, which are among the most common brain injuries, often go undiagnosed when there is no loss of consciousness. The likelihood of a child or teenager suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is 19 percent per year of play, yet fewer than half of U.S. high schools have certified coaches or trainers who are equipped to deal with concussions.

Most of us think of a high school football player as someone who is more likely to incur a brain injury, but girls actually have a higher incidence of concussions than boys. Among high school soccer players, girls are 40 percent more likely to be affected by concussions; that likelihood jumps to 240 percent for girls playing high school basketball.

Because the brain is a complex organ, no two brain injuries are exactly alike. It’s important to remember that brain injuries can occur anytime, anywhere and affect anyone.

The Brain Injury Association of American (BIAA) is dedicated to raising awareness of traumatic brain injury and educate the public on its devastating effects. Since 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children are related to sports and recreational activities, they encourage parents and coaches to discuss the facts about student athletes and head injuries.

 Have you spoken to your child’s coach about ways to prevent head injuries? Does your child’s team have a plan to deal with them when they do happen?

Published on: April 07, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Tiana Tucker

Tiana Tucker is the community manager for the online nursing program produced by the School of Nursing & Health Studies at Georgetown University. You can read the stories from nurse practitioner students she's written on the program's blog.

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