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Growing awareness of concussions may protect young athletes

When a child playing sports has any type of trauma that could cause a coach or trainer should take them out of the game for an evaluation. Unfortunately most pee-wee and even high school leagues do not have a physician available on the sidelines. The University of Michigan's Neurosport program has developed free online training to help coaches and trainers identify the signs of a concussion.

New information about concussions has increased our understanding of just how serious these injuries can be. The decision of when to return to full competition is one that many high school coaches are simply not qualified to make.

While the danger of concussions is seen most starkly in professional athletes like football players, there is a serious risk to any athletes at any level, particularly when they are exposed to the risk of multiple concussions. This can lead to a serious condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is caused by multiple incidents of head trauma and can result in memory loss, confusion, aggression and depression. The symptoms can appear in the weeks and months after an injury, or not manifest until years later. This is thought to have been a contributing factor in the suicide of former Chicago Bears player, Dave Duerson.

Because a second head injury can be much more injurious if a prior injury has not fully healed, medical experts advise a conservative approach there the young athlete is independently examined and slowly work back toward full contact. This may mean starting with light exercise, to more strenuous exercise, then no-contact sports drills and an eventual return to competition.

Source: Family Practice News, "Concussion Management Gains Ground With New Laws," Jeff Evans, Sept. 21, 2011

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