Play it safe: Keep athletes safe from injuries, concussions during the fall sports season
Wearing the right gear, resting after injury and knowing the signs of concussion can make a difference, experts say.
With kids across the country back in school, students of all ages and skill levels are competing in fall sports like football, cross country and soccer. While staying active and exercising regularly, especially through sports, is a great way to keep our kids healthy, medical professionals urge all athletes and parents to exercise caution as well.
Who’s at risk for sports injury?
While anyone can be at risk for a sports injury, younger people are more likely to experience one.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of all injury-related ER visits, especially in adolescents and young adults, are sports-related. The CDC found two-thirds of patients who visit the ER for sports injuries are between 10- and 19-years old. The CDC also found that two-thirds of sports injury patients in the ER are male.
What are the most common kinds of sports injury?
According to Regence Executive Medical Director Dr. Jim Polo, sprains, strains and dislocations are the most common types of sports injuries. However, it is important to also be prepared for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in youth sports. Activities like using a trampoline, riding a push scooter and skateboarding contribute to 21% of all TBIs among youth.
Head injuries sustained through sports and recreational activities can cause a wide range of physical trauma—from a milder injury such as a scalp contusion to a more severe injury like a TBI. Since children’s brains and bodies are still developing and changing, they often require longer recovery times from sports injuries including concussions.
What are the signs of a concussion?
While some concussion symptoms, or symptoms that occur after an injury where the head and brain rapidly move back and forth, can be mild, head injuries should always be taken seriously.
It’s important for parents and coaches alike to watch for concussion warning signs for when an athlete needs medical attention after sustaining a head injury.
Signs of a concussion can include:
- Not being able to remember events before or shortly after the incident
- Forgetting instructions and being slow to answer questions
- Motor impairment, dizziness or stumbling
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood or personality changes
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and/or noise
- Confusion, concentration or memory problems
- Blurred or double vision
When can my child return to play after a concussion or injury?
Most states have rules about when student athletes can return to play after sustaining a concussion in order to minimize risk of prolonged injury or second impact syndrome. This can occur when a person sustains another concussion after not fully recovering from the first, which can even be fatal.
The recovery process for concussions can be tricky, as a child may feel fine physically while still experiencing issues with behavior, thinking and/or balance.
Before returning to their sport, a child should be:
- Free of concussion symptoms
- Back in school if they had taken time off to recover
- Done with medications for concussion symptoms
- Be at their baseline levels for physical and cognitive testing, conducted by a health care professional
It is important that a child also receive clearance from a health care provider before returning to their sport.
What can I do to lower my child’s risk of sports injury?
While we can’t fully eliminate the risk of a sports injury or concussion taking place, there are things we can do to lower risks. This includes:
- Making sure your child is wearing the right gear
- Getting a sports physical before the season starts
- Knowing proper techniques of their sport
- Playing on an age-appropriate team
- Practicing proper warm-ups and cool-downs
Additionally, keeping an eye out for warning signs like increasing pain or limping that is affecting your child on a day-to-day basis can help prevent longer-term injuries.
If your child wants to return to play before they’re fully recovered, encourage them take time to rest and not play through the pain. Resting for one game or one practice can be one way to prevent a more severe injury.
Where can I go for more information on sports injury and injury prevention?
There’s lots of information about sports injuries and it can be tough to know where to start looking and what information you can trust. If you’re looking for information on how to keep your athlete healthy and safe while they play, you can start by consulting your in-network health care provider. If you’re a Regence member and don’t have a primary care provider (PCP), you can find in-network providers who are accepting new patients by signing in to your account at regence.com or calling the phone number on the back of your insurance card.
You can also consult trusted and accredited health organizations, including: