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Players Who ‘Tough Out’ Concussions Concern Doctors

Experts recommend that injured players reduce, but not eliminate, physical and cognitive activity in the days following a concussion.

The true number of children treated for sports- and recreation-related concussions is likely under-reported, according to a new American Academy of Pediatrics report.

The concussion report is the first update in eight years by the AAP. It found that up to 1.9 million youth concussions are reported each year, with most of them being in tackle football and girls soccer. However, concussions are common in nearly all sports at all levels.

“While more families, physicians and coaches are aware of the health risks of a blow to the head — and more concussions are being reported — we remain concerned about players who try to tough it out without seeking help,” said Dr. Mark E. Halstead, lead author of the clinical report. “We know from surveys that many high school athletes will continue to play after a head injury out of fear they won’t be allowed back on the field.”

Experts recommend that injured players reduce, but not eliminate, physical and cognitive activity in the days following a concussion.

“Athletes absolutely need to take an immediate break from play after a concussion, but we find that, during the recovery process, it is best to encourage a reasonable amount of activity, such as brisk walking,” said Dr. Halstead. “Students shouldn’t need to take a prolonged amount of time away from school, though they should work with teachers on lessening the academic workload.

“These are individual decisions that families should discuss and evaluate with their child’s physician.”

There is also no research that shows that a youth’s use of electronics, such as computers, television, video games or texting, is harmful after concussion. In fact, complete elimination of electronics may lead to a child’s feeling of social isolation, anxiety or depression, the report states.

Even as a national focus on health risks of concussions and mild traumatic brain injury has increased awareness and led to state legislation, much remains unknown, according to the AAP.

The AAP report says more research is needed on sport-related concussions, especially in middle school and younger athletes. Most pediatric athletes will recover from symptoms within four weeks of their injury.

Here is a link to the full report: “Sport-Related Concussion in Children and Adolescents.”

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