There was a time when bumps to the head got little attention, particularly when they involved young athletes. Parents and coaches alike often considered them par for the course; a temporary condition in which seeing stars would pass with a few sips of water and a brief break from the game. After all, young athletes are incredibly resilient. No blood, no broken bones, no worries. Few understood the drama going on inside the young athlete’s brain or the danger it presented.

That’s changing. Concussion awareness is going global.

While sports fans have their eyes on FIFA’s World Cup, the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, concussion is taking center state. This week, FIFA was asked to investigate the competition’s concussion protocol after a Uruguayan player returned to play following a hit to the head and loss of consciousness. He was not evaluated. Instead, he sat out for a few minutes, then returned to the game.

The week before, the International Rugby Board (IRB) publicly made concussion one of its main priorities. Rugby is now the fastest growing sport in North America, with youth rugby increasing 25 percent last year alone. In the U.S., more than 67,000 high school athletes are registered members of USA Rugby. Brett Gosper, head of the IRB, is now calling on everyone involved in rugby to take concussion seriously, adding, “If any player demonstrates any signs or reports any symptoms of possible concussion, that player must be removed from the game and must not return to play. That is non-negotiable.”

Then there’s last month’s event; the first ever Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the White House, the goal was to advance understanding of how to prevent, identify and respond to concussions, and to encourage more research.

All these stories and all these numbers may seem like they don’t apply to an elementary school soccer player, a middle school football player or a high school cheerleader. But in fact, they do.
Every year, young athletes make more than 250,000 visits to the emergency room for sports injuries; many of them head injuries. Numerous other physicians and urgent care facilities commonly see young athletes with head injuries. And these don’t always make it to the set of national statistics.

The truth is, concussions are common. They are still largely misunderstood. And worse, there has been a sense of resistance to the serious nature of head injuries. Thankfully, that’s beginning to change at the top. But it’s certainly time for every mom and dad, family member, coach, school nurse, athletic trainer and director to recognize that all young athletes are at risk of concussion. While we are still learning more about them, the facts are:

  • Concussion is a brain injury. It is serious.
  • A concussion can have a serious impact on young, developing brains
  • It can cause short and long-term problems that affect each child differently.
  • It can affect how the young athlete thinks, acts, learns, remembers and feels.
  • A concussion generally resolves quickly; but resolution takes longer in young athletes.

Look at it this way:

If the NFL is committing $25 million to promote youth sports safety, including targeting concussion awareness, it’s a serious health issue.

If the National Institutes of Health is launching new research to detect, characterize, and measure chronic effects of repetitive concussions, it’s a serious health issue.

If Pop Warner has chosen to participate this season in a research project to track concussions and concussion trends in young athletes – it’s a serious health issue.

I could go on about USA Cheer, U.S. Soccer, The National Federation of State High School Associations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics – all of which are making concussions a priority. But the most important thing is this: If you know, love or coach a young athlete, concussion must be a priority to you.

At Impact Urgent Care, we have an exceptional tool that can help in the event of a head injury to a young athlete. Because we offer state of the art concussion care and management, we also offer free, baseline testing. The computerized neurocognitive test is a non-invasive way to obtain information on a healthy athlete’s brain. Should the athlete suffer a head injury, we can retest and compare the previous information to the current information. This provides a tremendous advantage in guiding the individual care we offer.

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