The uncomfortable alliance between football and concussions has once again taken over the headlines thanks to a new Frontline documentary on PBS.

In League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, the documentary and book detail the NFL’s response to concussion concerns over the years.

In Texas, football remains king among sports and parents should be concerned about their own child if they play a sport that still depends on tackles and violent collisions. As a parent, here are some things you should know about concussions:

  1. Don’t depend on after-market helmet attachments, such as bumpers, pads and sensors. You may have read that covers and strips reduce the risk of concussion, but no well-controlled studies show that helmets or third-party attachments prevent or reduce the severity of concussions.
  2. Helmets don’t prevent concussions. Helmets are important in reducing injuries such as skull fractures, but the 2013 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine found no difference in concussion rates between newer and older helmets.
  3. Getting your bell rung is serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes a concussion as “an injury that changes how the cells in the brain normally work. A concussion is caused by a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly in the skull. Even a ‘ding,’ ‘getting your bell rung,’ or what seems to be a mild bump or blow to the head can be serious.”
  4. When in doubt, sit them out. Parents should follow a simple rule if they think their child has suffered a concussion: “when in doubt, sit them out.” Under no circumstances should pediatric or adolescent athletes with a concussion return to play the same day of their concussion. No athlete should return to play while still symptomatic at rest or with exertion.
  5. You can’t see a concussion. The CDC offers the following guidelines for coaches, but it’s important for parents to know as well: “Remember, you can’t see a concussion and some athletes may not experience and/or report symptoms until hours or days after the injury. If you have any suspicion that your athlete has a concussion, you should keep the athlete out of the game.”
  6. Kids can get concussions too. A lot of the focus has been placed on players ranging from the professional ranks to the high school level, but you have to be careful with young children too. Kids who are participating in recreational, select, pee wee and other sorts of formal and informal teams also get concussions. We’ve seen young athletes as young as 7 and 8 years old with concussions.

Football will continue to be played in Texas and around the nation, but it is up to us to be responsible for those young players and allow them to play in as healthy an environment as possible, including watching out for concussions.

Resource: AAP News

Howard Kelfer, M.D., is a neurologist at Cook Children’s.

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