Over at the Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger put up a thoughtful post about the risk of youth sports, playing through injuries, and growing evidence of brain abnormalities in professional athletes:

fewer than 50% of athletes understand the problems that can arise from concussions, says an article this month in the journal “Pediatrics”. In a study of high-school teams in Minnesota, the article says, 69% of players who lost consciousness and 81% of those who sustained a concussion returned to play the same day, contrary to sound medical practice. The article recommends increased step-by-step, individualized monitoring of players who sustain blows to the head.

This issue poses some tough tradeoffs for parents. On many teams, off-the-field practices by trainers and coaches have improved in recent years. On the other hand, competition has intensified in all youth sports, and kids still get mixed messages as parents call from the sidelines, “Shake it off!” or “Play through the pain!”

Heads Up Concussion - CDCWe talked about concussions in youth sports a year ago. Many parents and coaches don’t know the warning signs to look for and put kids back in games when they really should be resting. Every coach should put this wallet card in their first aid kit.

Going back to the post above, be sure to read some of the comments. It’s an interesting and wide ranging discussion. One of the funnier comments (yet very true) was this:

Having played rugby, football and other sports and endured a dozen or so concussions (along with multiple broken bones, it is funny that most of my injuries came from pick-up basketball, car accidents and bicycling. There is risk everywhere. Properly protected and properly played; most of the most violent contact sports do not really have that much higher of a risk of injury than the ones we consider “safe”. It seems to me as football equipment got better, more kids started to learn to lead with their heads. You saw it a lot less back in the 70s. And even less in rugby where you do not have a hat! We were taught in football and rugby to get your head to the side; not lead with it. Now cheerleading; I would never do that!!! Too dangerous. AND I have daughters that do it!

Emphasis mine. That’s funny – but very true if they’re a stunt team.

We can’t protect our kids from everything, but we certainly can get informed as parents and coaches. Coaches need to make sure they communicate with parents about any suspected injuries and parents should do the same so coaches know to keep an eye out.

Note you can order free concussion information kits from the CDC. I may order the stickers or wallet cards for our coaches.