Concussion in youth sports: What research is being done and how sports teams are trying to prevent it

KETV (Omaha, Nebraska)

September 4, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. — Football season is here and while winning may be the goal, safety is always at the forefront.

Studies show among contact sports, football players have the highest number of concussions.

In the great game of football, tackles can result in injuries including ankle sprains, strains, broken bones and concussions.

A concussion is a brain injury and they are serious. Often, they can occur without loss of consciousness.

“What happens is your brain gets slashed in the skull and your anions and cadions move along the nerve endings. Because they get shifted out of the cells at a different rate, all of these exons send signals more slowly,” said Dr. Natalie Ronshaugen with Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 12% of children in the United States ages 12 to 17 have had symptoms of a concussion.

“You may have slowing in the way your balance works or how your emotions are regulated on top of just functioning in school and understanding what your teacher is telling you,” Ronshaugen said.

Ronshaugen is a sports medicine physician and her job specifically focuses on severe concussions in children.

“Football has the highest rate of concussions in American sports and part of that is the fact that we have such large numbers of people playing the sport,” she said.

Those injuries can cost a child time in school and for families, it can hit their wallets.

“It can especially if they’re needing to go to physical therapy for more than a few weeks. And some of these longer lasting ones, athletes end up in physical therapy for a couple of months,” Ronshaugen said.

She said 93% of pediatric concussions resolve in about four weeks. Now with more research and added safety precautions, the goal is to decrease the number of concussions they see in children.

In 2017 Creighton Prep was the first high school in Nebraska to implement concussion safety helmets after a game against Papillion ended with a student suffering a concussion.

The specialty helmets measure impact and according to Creighton Prep’s Athletic Trainer, Bill Kleber, they are seeing slightly fewer concussions because data is helping them make adjustments.

“Is it the tackling technique that needs to be changed? Is it a way to lessen the impact during a drill or change the drill a little bit to modify it and see if it can be just a little bit safer? We’ve done that in the past,” Kleeber said.

Football isn’t the only sport where brain injuries are high. We also see them in baseball, soccer and cheerleading.

“Some of the concussions that I see in competitive cheer are some of the most significant concussions that I see,” Ronshaugen said.

The price your body pays for a concussion is taxing and no dollar amount can heal the worst-case scenario. Ronshaugen advises student athletes to speak up if injured, rather than taking one for the team.

“In sports, we’re taught to push through pain and with concussion, that is the absolute wrong answer,” Ronshaugen said.

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