New treatments of concussions in young athletes

May 7, 2022

Seven years ago, the U.S. Soccer Concussion Initiative made a landmark ruling, saying that kids 10 years and younger are not allowed to head the ball.

The organization also limited heading for those 11 through 13.

That was just the beginning of a major shift when it comes to preventing and treating head injuries in kids.

“Certainly it’s a hot button issue. I think the good thing now about it compared to 10-15 years ago is that it is a hot button issue,” said Director of Vanderbilt Youth Sports Health Center Dr. Alex Diamond. “When I first started doing, this there were very few studies on concussions.”

From new rules to new methods of recovery, how we treat concussions now has completely transformed.

“I point to concussion as one of those areas that has tremendously changed. In the past, we always used to think of concussion as this passive process, you just sit and wait for it to go away.”

That’s not the case anymore.

“We can treat concussions actively just like you injure your knee, you injure your ankle. We can do specific treatments to you to make sure that you not only recover better, but faster, and we can do those with concussions now. So, it’s no longer a sitting and waiting process.”

Not only was that method not as effective, it also may have hurt more than it helped.

“What we found out is that you take healthy, social, active kids who are used to moving and make them just sit in a dark quiet room is not a good thing. It actually tends to make symptoms worse and sometimes prolong them as well.”

So now athletes will go through what’s called “active rehab.” Similar to any other injury, it safely introduces more and more movement during the recovery process.

“Kid’s brains are still developing, they’re what we call plastic, so there’s lots of change and development and growth still happening. In one respect, they’re a little bit more sensitive to the injuries they sustain, but two, they tend to sort of heal a little better and remodel and recover as well.”

Dr. Diamond also said there’s emerging research suggesting a mouth guard could help limit concussions. He said the studies are very green, but it shows the conversation surrounding concussions has not slowed.

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