What Your Young Athlete Should Know About Concussions This Football Season

Oct 01, 2022
What Your Young Athlete Should Know About Concussions This Football Season
Fall is here and that means it’s football season. While they offer many health benefits, contact sports, like football, increase your child’s risk of concussion. Here’s what you and your young athlete need to know about this mild brain injury.

If you have a young athlete, it’s important to talk to them about the risk and signs of concussion, a common mild, traumatic brain injury. Concussions result because of a forceful impact to the head or when the body moves in a way that makes the brain hit the skin. 

By talking to your child about concussions, you can help ensure they understand the signs and know when to get help. Here’s what you and your student athlete should know.

Preventing concussions is key

If your child plays contact sports, like football, you should know this increases your child’s risk of concussion. Recent studies show at least 5% of youth football players sustain a football-related concussion each season. 

The best way to protect your child from the serious effects of concussion is to teach them about concussion prevention. Talk to your student athlete about sports safety and avoiding high-risk activities, like practicing without the right equipment, and speaking up after suffering a head injury, no matter how mild it might seem. 

Talk to your athlete about the signs of concussion 

Talk to your student athlete about the signs of this mild brain injury. When children understand the symptoms of concussion, they’re more likely to report the injury, get help, and have a quicker recovery with fewer long-term complications.

Concussion signs and symptoms to teach your student athlete to be on the lookout for include:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble with balance
  • Headache 
  • Feeling pressure in the head
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Blurry vision 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Mood changes
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Generally feeling unwell

Also, tell your child that signs of a concussion don’t always start immediately. It can take days—sometimes weeks—for concussion symptoms to appear. 

It’s also important for your student athlete to understand that even if their concussion symptoms are mild or delayed, their brain is still at risk. That’s why it’s important to share these symptoms with you or a trusted adult.

Teach your child to track their symptoms 

If you or your student athlete think they may have a concussion, tracking their symptoms can play a key role in their treatment and recovery. This is because tracking symptoms helps your pediatrician understand if their symptoms are worsening over time or if they get more severe after exposure to certain triggers. 

The first 24-48 hours post-concussion are key to your child’s recovery. Identifying what, if anything, affects their symptoms or makes them worse can help your child’s provider create the most effective treatment plan for your student athlete. 

Sleep is a key part of concussion recovery

You may have heard a myth that sleep is dangerous if you have a concussion. But research shows children and teens may need up to 40% more sleep after sustaining a concussion. 

Extra sleep helps the brain recover and works to prevent long-term complications. If you’re worried about your athlete sleeping after their injury, talk to your provider at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics about guidelines to follow and for more information.

Take time to heal after a concussion

Your young athlete might report feeling better and be anxious to get back in the game or return to school after their concussion. But going back to their normal activities too soon can cause more problems and make things worse. 

Being a couch potato isn’t a good idea either. While it’s essential your student athlete not return to sports or extreme physical activity too soon after a concussion, light physical exercise can help their brain recover faster. 

This is because, as research shows, increasing your heart rate with gentle exercise promotes more blood flow to the brain, encouraging repairs. Every child’s situation is different, however, so be sure to follow your provider’s advice.

Always get medical help for a head injury

Take your child to their pediatrician for an evaluation within one or two days of any head injury—even those that seem mild. Keep in mind that it can take days or even weeks for symptoms of a concussion to appear.