We can prevent concussions in youth sports

On July 1 , Connecticut proudly joined the growing ranks of states that have come forward and placed the safety of young athletes as a high priority on the legislative agenda.

A new law is now in effect that requires all scholastic coaches to attend a seminar on recognizing the early signs of concussion. The law also prohibits athletes from returning to a contact sport until cleared in writing by a medical professional with experience in the treatment of concussions.

As in other states, this law has had the added benefit of prompting serious discussion about how to make sports safer at all levels. In Connecticut, thanks to concerned parents, similar concussion restrictions are being implemented voluntarily at the youth sports (pre-high school) level.

As a neurologist involved in the field of sports neurology, I witness the devastating effects of concussion on a regular basis. A typical scenario is one where an athlete suffers a head injury but does not report it to a coach or parent. The first injury is then followed by a second impact before allowing the brain enough time to rest and heal. This second injury can result in more long-lasting and sometimes permanent symptoms of headache, dizziness and cognitive impairment.

Head injuries in younger children take longer to heal and are generally more severe. Ironically, it is the youth level of play where there are the fewest medical resources available, like a certified athletic trainer at every game.

On July 22, Backus Hospital is hosting a free lecture and discussion on the subject of head injuries in sports. It is designed for coaches, parents and athletes and will allow them to recognize early symptoms and take appropriate steps.

I highly recommend attending this seminar since the most effective treatment for a concussion is early recognition and rest.

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