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Reducing the Brain Injury Risk for Schoolchildren

According to the CDC, there are somewhere between 2 and 4 million brain injuries every year, 10% of which are due to sports. However, American children participating in athletics account for 21% of those brain injuries, an astounding percentage. Kids playing soccer, football, baseball, riding their bikes, or diving into a neighbor’s pool can easily suffer a head injury.

While many brain injuries resolve on their own, there are sadly many more that do not, and end up having lifelong medical consequences, something that I am all too familiar with myself. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can often go undiagnosed, or untreated, especially in children too young to talk about how they are feeling or the symptoms they are having like sleeping problems or confusion. Kids are told to “shake it off” when in reality, they should be in a hospital being evaluated by a neurologist.

Concussions, one of the most common brain injuries in children, can take days or weeks to resolve. Too often, kids return to their usual activities right away, instead of taking the necessary time to rest. A concussion can result in motor skill issues, memory issues, and balance problems, and if left untreated (or compounded by another concussion), can have serious consequences down the road. Kids who get one concussion are statistically more susceptible to suffering another. Just look at the devastating results of multiple concussions in NFL players, many of whom started playing football in their youth, and possibly suffered their first head injury then.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if your child shows any of these symptoms after a hit on the head, you should get them in to see a medical professional right away:

  • Behavior changes such as agitation, confusion, or restlessness

  • Convulsions or seizures

  • Inability to recognize people or places

  • Loss of consciousness

  • One pupil that is larger than the other

  • Slurred speech

  • Unusual behavior

  • Extreme drowsiness or inability to be woken from sleep

  • Vomiting

  • Crying that won't stop and inability to be consoled

We can help prevent these brain injuries from occurring by insisting on helmets and other safety measures, as well as having an ongoing conversations with our kids after practices and games. We can’t prevent all TBIs, because some occur from accidents or attacks (like mine), but we can increase awareness and protection for the youngest among us.

For more information on my battle with a brain injury, and how that one moment has impacted my entire life, pick up my book, You’ve Got Some Nerve, or read some of the excerpts in my blog. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, don’t wait to seek medical help. It could make a difference for the rest of their life.

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