We’ve barely made it past the Fourth of July, and we’re already thinking about back-to-school lists. There are so many things that need to be done in the next few weeks for our young athletes! Protective pads – check. Sport-specific shoes – check. Helmet – check. Mouthguard – check. Concussion Baseline Test … wait, what? Why take a concussion test if you haven’t had one recently?

The Concussion Baseline Test uses computer games to measure memory, reaction time, and mental-processing speed. This test is used by the NFL, pro baseball, NASCAR, and most collegiate sport programs. This baseline data is stored away in case an athlete does suffer a concussion; then, medical professionals can compare the functioning of the injured brain to the way it operates normally, and know when the athlete has recovered completely.

This test also records a person’s history of concussions during their lifetime. Why? Because the more concussions you’ve had, the more dangerous each new one can be to your brain, especially if you’ve had any recently. In fact, until a concussion is completely healed, it only takes minor trauma to make things much worse … even deadly.

Do I have your attention now? Good! Because concussions are one of the most common sports-related injuries in the U.S. with over three million sustained each year! Although you may have recently read some headlines about the NFL and head injuries, it’s not just football where traumatic brain injuries can occur. Soccer, volleyball, bicycling, and cheerleading are also high-risk sports. Over half of concussions take longer than one week to resolve, and they can’t be diagnosed with a CT scan or an MRI.

Should you keep your kids out of action sports? Of course not, but be aware of the dangers of concussions to a developing brain – especially multiple concussions. Corey Robinson, son of San Antonio Spurs’ legend David Robinson, had a shining career in football ahead of him going into his final year at Notre Dame. But he walked away from the game after suffering three concussions during his junior year.

Robinson had read about the long-term effects of these concussions and consulted with his doctors, who helped him make a difficult but mature decision. He knew that more concussions could mean early dementia from CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). He knew of many sports stars that had suffered and died from this, and he realized how likely it was that he could become a victim.

So, I urge parents to have that same mature attitude when cheering on their kids in sports. Don’t lose sight of the important things, like their brains and their future. Sports are a wonderful way to build discipline, physical strength, self-esteem, and teamwork, but be on top of concussion science. Don’t argue with a coach or doctor that suggests that your child sit out for a few weeks or even the rest of the season. These young athletes have a long, productive life ahead of them, and contact sports are not everything. There are plenty of alternative, less-risky sports to keep them in good physical shape for the rest of their lives.

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