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Preventing concussions in student athletes

Falls, bumps and collisions are an unavoidable part of most sports. In many cases, student athletes are able to "shake it off" and get back in the game without trouble. But if handled improperly, those spills can lead to traumatic brain injury with a lasting impact on a child's brain development.

A recent study found that 72 percent of parents with children ages 6 to 17 report being highly concerned about the possibility of their child sustaining a head injury on the field. The number of school-aged athletes visiting emergency rooms for serious injuries like concussions has increased dramatically in recent years.

Know the signs

While many people associate concussions with blackouts, sufferers don't always lose consciousness. Be on the lookout for other symptoms such as:

  • headaches
  • irritability
  • changes in sleeping or eating behavior
  • changes in school performance
  • loss of balance or unsteady walking

Ask for safer practices

Speak to your child's coach about your concerns and encourage them to limit brain injury risks during practices. Encourage coaches to have lighter practice days without full-on contact.

Don't rush to get them back in the game

If your child experiences head trauma or you're concerned about a possible concussion during a game, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If possible, wait for a doctor's approval before letting them return to the field.

Pay attention to nutrition

Make sure your child's diet includes sufficient amounts of DHA, a structural fat that is essential for brain development and function. Fatty fish are rich in DHA, as are certain algal supplements.

Stay in the know

Make sure you know what regulations are in place to protect your child. This can help you keep an eye out for potential injury risks and know how to handle them with they arise. Learning about recent developments in brain injury research and safety equipment will put you in the best position to keep your student athlete safe.

Of course, even the most careful child can get hurt. If your child has sustained a serious injury such as a concussion caused by insufficient supervision or another person's negligence, it may be wise to speak with a personal injury attorney. They can help you review the facts and pursue any appropriate claims.

Source: The Wausau Daily Herald, "Youth sports safety - 5 tips to help protect your little athlete," Oct. 26, 2012

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