One of the scariest sports injuries a child can sustain while they’re on the field is a concussion, and while they are prominent in some sports, they can occur almost anywhere. Soccer players can collide on the field, or a player can head the ball in correctly and become concussed. Football players can receive concussions from tackles. Hockey players can hit the side glass wrong or get hit in the head with a puck or a stick. A misdirected hard pitch can end in head trauma.
Sports officials and leagues have taken measures to help prevent concussions, like outlawing certain strategies, moves and practices in youth league sports. These rules usually state that children playing under a certain age bracket can’t do things like slide tackle, heading the ball under a certain age, or perform head-on moves. They also regulate the equipment used, like making sure teams are outfitted with the proper head gear.
Despite all of this forethought, concussions still happen in youth sports, and at a higher rate than you might realize. While some sports injuries are inevitable when you have a child that plays in a youth league, it’s our job and the job of the leagues that we work with to make sure management helps to reduce the number of concussions as much as possible.
An Increased Urgency
The football players of the past who are now suffering from early dementia, confusion and brain trauma received multiple head injuries when they were in their 20s and 30s. It is only in fairly recent years that governing bodies and teams are teaming up with medical research to get a clear picture of the lasting issues, and prevention options.
Now consider a child receiving multiple concussions during their teenage years. Their brains are still developing, and the younger they are, the scarier the risks are.
Let’s look at some concrete numbers on concussions, specifically in regards to youth sports:
· Youth tackle football players sustain more concussions than players of any other sport.
· Among girls, soccer players receive more concussions than girls who play any other sport.
· Twice as many girls who play basketball receive concussions as compared to boys who play.
· Concussions can happen in most sports, including swimming and fencing.
· More than 50% of high school athletes fail to report their concussions (despite being informed of the protocol during season registration).
· Despite “return to play” protocols, many coaches, parents and athletes are unclear about the proper handling of concussions
· Concussion problems compound with subsequent impact. If not detected and treated properly, they become increasingly dangerous and the consequences can be dire.
How We Can Help
One of the reasons the injuries and effects of concussions are concerning are because coaches, athletes and parents often don’t know how to properly handle them. There are actually a lot of misconceptions about the true definition of a concussion. Lack of information and difficulty to convey the information down to the player and their family often impair safe treatment.
The solution to this problem is to arm everyone involved with better knowledge. Before the season starts, hold a team meeting discussing what a concussion really is and why it’s so important for athletes to report their concussions. Parents should be informed about when to take a child to the doctor and the protocol to follow after head trauma is sustained.
Maybe even more important, make sure your players know what symptoms to recognize, and know to speak up. A lot of boys especially still believe that “getting your bell rung” is part of being a strong player. For them to neglect or avoid voicing issues such as dizziness, headaches, forgetfulness after an impact can lead to undetected issues. Boys and girls alike avoid reporting so they are not forced to sit on the sidelines while their peer play, which leads to under-reporting.
League Network exists to better arm league officials with the information necessary to make their leagues better and safer, and we are committed to player safety. League Network is one of the new members of the Youth Sports Safety Alliance (youthsportssafetyalliance.org) and will work diligently to bring our parents, volunteers and league officers prompt, actionable and updated information on concussions and other tragic injuries in sports.
At League Network, our goal is to increase sports participation and help our member leagues thrive and grow. We don’t want to see parents pulling children from sports teams en masse because they’re afraid of permanent brain injury any more than the league owners themselves.
When everyone is informed, everyone is safer. When everyone is safer, leagues are more prosperous. Better Leagues means Better Lives ™.