Youth Sports – Repeat Concussions Increase Recovery Time

Youth sports are a major cause of concussions in our children; a recent study has shown that repeat injuries require a longer healing process to fully recover.
Youth sports are a major cause of concussions in our children; a recent study has shown that repeat injuries require a longer healing process to fully recover.

It is a growing concern in the sporting world today, especially for parents whose children participate in contact sports. Concussions have become the primary focus in terms of prevention, with rule changes and better equipment being created to protect athletes from these head injuries. Youth sports are no different, and we have now  learned that suffering a repeat concussions actually increase the recovery time needed.

Youth are typically believed to take two weeks to fully recover from concussion symptoms, the most common of which being headaches and memory difficulties. However in a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics the recovery time was found to double with each subsequent concussion.

That means that a youth athlete who returns to the field may well be skipping the recovery time he or she needs to properly recover from their brain injury. Taking up to 35 days to be fully recovered and not show any signs of symptoms as a result of the injury if this was the second concussion suffered by the individual in the past twelve months.

The study conducted was led by Matthew A. Eisenberg, MD at the Harvard Medical School. Realizing that there was now a significant amount of information available in terms of concussions in adults, we still don’t know enough about how the injury impacts children.

Choosing a sample of 280 children who had been seen in an emergency room at some point for concussion like symptoms, he began his research. The mean age of the sample was 14, and over half were boys.

Nearly two thirds of the participants had been injured in a sporting event of some kind. Concussion awareness has become the focal point of contact sports, especially among the youth as we attempt to prevent repeat concussions and give the proper amount of time to recover when they are suffered.

Brought forth to the attention of the country by the suicide of former San Diego Charger’s linebacker Junior Seau in May of 2012, the sporting world has scrambled to prevent the traumatic injury from occurring.

The study conducted by Dr. Eisenberg admittedly has the limitation of relying on these adolescents to self-report when their symptoms were gone. However the study does have value, and as Dr. Eisenberg explains, we have learned that “even after symptoms have improved and even after these neuropsychological tests have returned to normal, there’s still a vulnerability that can lead to a much more severe second concussion.”

Since two thirds of the study were injured as a result of playing some form of youth sports, it is more concerning that repeat concussions are both easier to receive as well as require an increased recovery time. Children playing sports, especially at the high school level are willing to take chances by going back onto the field before their brains are ready for the contact.

The brains of our youth are still developing, and repeat injuries due to sports and other events are nothing to laugh at. We need to continue to explore concussions and their impact on the youth. We have learned that repeat concussions require an increase in recovery time, and that most of them occur as a result youth sports. Now the focus should shift further on prevention, so we can avoid these traumatic brain injuries and their lasting effects from ever taking hold of your youth.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille

Senior Sports Editor

The Guardian Express

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