Submitted by Maryann Kuhn
(Posting this story to acknowledgeBrain Injury Awareness Month)
There are a lot of stories in the news about NFL players suffering from long-term brain damage due to concussions, but how often do you hear about a high school cheerleader who falls from the top of a pyramid? Or maybe a middle school hockey player who gets slammed against the rink wall? While these school-aged athletes aren’t professionals, their concussions can result in equally life-altering damage. In fact, because the brain doesn’t fully mature until at least the mid-20’s, any damage during its development can have a significant impact on cognition and day-to-day functioning.
It is figured that of the 1.6 to 3.8 million sports-related concussions that occur in the United States each year, around 250,000 are due to high school football alone. The second most dangerous sport? Girl’s soccer. But there are plenty of other school sports that are known for their concussion rates, including boys’ wrestling, girls’ basketball, boys’ ice hockey and boys’ lacrosse.
WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?
The short answer is that a concussion is an injury to the brain that causes temporary loss of brain function. In most sports-related cases, there are no physical signs of trauma and the person doesn’t lose consciousness.
EFFECTS ON THE BRIAN
While one concussion doesn’t typically do permanent damage, repeated concussions (especially in close succession) can. There can be immediate or delayed long-term neurological impairments in memory, problem solving, processing speed, planning and attention.
SYMPTOMS TO WATCH FOR
* Memory Loss * Confusion * Delayed Reflexes * Impaired Judgement * Slurred Speech * Impaired Balance * Dizziness
* Decreased Coordination * Nausea * Ringing in the Ears * Headache * Sleep Disruptions * Blurred Vision * Irritability
* Sensitivity to Light * Loss of Smell or Taste * Difficulty Concentrating
AFTER A CONCUSSION
If you suspect that your child has experienced some cognitive changes due to a concussion, there are scientifically proven training programs that can help. Also known as “cognitive skills training,” intensive, one-on-one brain training forces the brain to better utilize and grow more synapses (the pathways between neurons). By reorganizing how the brain relays signals between cells, you can strengthen the cognitive skills that were weakened by the injury. These brain skills are what we use to focus, understand, plan, think, prioritize, remember, visualize andsolve problems. Just as conditioning strengthens the body of an athlete, cognitive skills training strengthens their brain.
WHAT TO DO NOW
1. Check the condition of your child’s protective helmet and make sure it fits properly.
2. Take your athlete to a local brain training center for an initial cognitive skills assessment to provide a baseline against which they can measure the results of future post-concussion tests.
3. Ensure that your child’s coach is following the safest practices for suspected concussions.
(If you would like more info on concussions and their affect on cognitive skills, contact LearningRX at http://www.learningrx.com/frisco/default.htm.)