Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Brain Injuries and Concussions in Young Athletes

Recent studies have indicated that brain injuries and concussions in youth correlate with a history of crime later in life. If this is the case, it is important to be aware of our young people's head injuries and concussions when they play contact sports such as football.

A retired doctor from Dover, New Hampshire recently proposed there be a ban placed on high school football because of the potential dangers to young people. He said in football, the head is used as a battering ram. Obviously controversial, some say then we should keep our children from riding in a car because that can be potentially dangerous as well.

However, common sense states that the dangers of brain injuries and concussions are significantly higher while playing football or other high contact sports. Especially considering that in a single season, a football player can receive over 900 hits. And it is estimated that one out of four players suffer a concussion during the season with many more going unreported because they don't want to be taken out of the game.

Added to that is the recent study finding that head injuries for young people with maturing brains can cause some 'misfiring' and disruption in the development of self-restraint, social judgment and impulse control. Studies have also shown that the prevalence of brain injuries among prisoners is as high as sixty percent with a large percentage having the potential to re-offend. After further studies, it was discovered that juvenile offenders suffering brain injuries were significantly higher than the group who didn't have injuries.

Perhaps it is time that parents, coaches and the school system find a way to identify and manage concussions and brain injuries early so that young people receive the right neuro-rehabilitation.

Football is a collision sport but perhaps there are also ways to make it safer for young people to play. Hockey in recent years has also become more aggressive. Maybe it's time to think about the potential consequences to our youth playing these sports and the concern about the increasing number of concussions and possible brain injuries.

Possibly instituting some of the following rules for children playing sports could be considered:

- That they no longer use their heads as battering rams while playing football.
- That tackle football be abandoned. At the high school level of football, impact is often 20 times the force of gravity.
- No more heading in soccer for young people.
- And no more full body checking for children playing hockey.

We shouldn't doom our children to a life of crime, lifetime cognitive problems or early Alzheimers because of our love of these sports or for the hope of a university scholarship. A child's safety should always be first and foremost.

Ms. Behnish has published 'Rollercoaster Ride With Brain Injury (For Loved Ones)', a non-fiction book detailing the difficult year following a brain injury; 'His Sins', a three generation family saga about how the actions of one person can affect future generations, and 'Life's Challenges, A Short Story Collection'.

She has also written numerous articles for newspapers, magazines and online on subjects relating to brain injuries, family issues, motivational topics and travel.

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