Concussions: Safeguarding kids from long-term injuries
Despite the increased attention on concussions these days, many young athletes remain reluctant to speak up when they may have sustained one for fear of missing playing time.
But here’s another important reason to encourage kids to alert their coaches when they have hit their head or aren’t feeling well: they are at increased risk of other injuries that can sideline them for long stretches.
“I tell the pro athletes this when I’m talking to them, if you’ve had a concussion you’re at an increased risk of a lower extremity injury,” says Dr. Daniel Rafie, a sports neurologist at the UCLA BrainSPORT Program. “That’s a high ankle sprain and potentially an ACL tear. We haven’t necessarily identified the exact mechanistic cause but certainly it’s a significant association to the point where if you’ve had a concussion the last thing you want is to continue playing and have a high ankle sprain where you’re out for the next six weeks. Also, your performance goes down. So if you’re playing with a concussion we know that a bunch of different performance parameters get worse and not a lot of people think about that.”
That’s why it’s so crucial that volunteer coaches establish open lines of communication with their young athletes so they willingly share when they aren’t feeling good and need to take a break from the action.
“The message that coaches need to get across to athletes is that it’s ok if you have to sit out if you don’t feel good,” Rafie says. “When you build that trust with a player, you’ll start seeing a lot more players come forward.”
To help educate young athletes, coaches and parents, the BrainSPORT staff launched the UCLA BrainSPORT Podcast.
The podcast addresses concussions and other topics in sports neurology and features fascinating and revealing insights from a variety of experts and athletes on the weekly episodes.
“Getting the perspective of someone who has actually been impacted by a concussion really gives us a comprehensive understanding of it,” Rafie says. “This is a platform for athletes to voice their concerns and voice their experiences.”
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