The following are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk for concussions in children.
Use child safety seats and seat belts
Car crashes are a major cause of concussion and other types of brain injuries for children. When riding in motor vehicles, all occupants should use age-appropriate restraints such as child safety seats, booster seats and seat belts. In the past decade, the increased use of these safety devices has dramatically decreased the number of children dying or suffering serious injuries in car crashes.
Closely monitor your child’s sports programs
Research shows childhood concussion is most common between the ages of 11 and 15 years, and that half of childhood concussions are sports-related. Look for youth sports programs that focus on honing agility, eye-hand coordination and general conditioning — the skills that should be developed in the 6- to 12-year-old age range to become competitive in high school and college. Delay entry into contact sports programs that allow deliberate hitting until later in adolescence or look for programs that limit the amount of full-contact practice.
Adolescent, or high school-age athletes, are better equipped cognitively to learn proper techniques that do not expose them or others to unnecessary dangerous contact. Also, these athletes usually have better access to skilled, professional coaches that can teach proper techniques that lead to “safe hits.”
A note about helmets: While current helmet designs are effective for preventing skull fracture and more serious brain injuries, they have not necessarily been shown to be effective at preventing concussions.
Take common-sense steps
When participating in contact sports there are steps your children can take to help protect themselves from concussions. Every sport is different, but recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention apply to most:
- Ensure that your children follow their coaches’ rules for safety and the rules of the sport
- Encourage them to practice good sportsmanship at all times
- Make sure they wear the right protective equipment for their activity (such as helmets, padding, shin guards and eye and mouth guards). Protective equipment should fit properly, be well maintained and be worn consistently and correctly
- Learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion
Suspect a concussion? Remove from play!
When concussions do occur, athletes should be removed from play and not return to sports until cleared by a medical professional familiar with concussion management. Children, especially adolescents and young teenagers, require longer recovery times and a more conservative treatment approach than adults.
If you think your child may have a concussion, please contact your primary care doctor or find a CHOP Primary Care physician near you.