If your child plays middle school or high school sports, chances are you've seen them or a teammate take a hard hit and wondered if they suffered a concussion. But a recent poll finds that while nearly two-thirds of parents of young athletes, 12-17, worry their children will get a concussion while playing sports, half don't know if their children's school has a concussion policy.
It's worth asking. Over the past few years, researchers have found that youth athletes are more likely to sustain concussions-and take longer to recover from them-than adults. If a second concussion occurs before a child's brain recovers from the first, there is a greater chance of long-term neurological effects.
At Downers Grove South High School, athletes' parents attend presentations on concussions and all athletes undergo concussion testing. Each athlete takes a computerized test lasting 25-40 minutes, which gives the school a baseline for things such as the teen's response, memory and reaction time. If there's a possibility they might have sustained a concussion, the athlete takes a second test. Results from both tests are printed out for the teen's doctor to evaluate.
"The nice thing about this is it's a very objective tool. It tells you in black and white if there's a discrepancy between memory and reaction time, things like that," says Mary Ann Frontzak, the athletic trainer who oversees all the testing at the school.
Even more important, it helps head off a second concussion occurring before the first has healed. Secondary concussions can have catastrophic results, including death and permanent disability.
Frontzak says coaches and parents are beginning to understand the importance of preventing multiple concussions. "Even though coaches aren't happy when their athlete is told to sit out and heal, they are more understanding about why it needs to be done," she says. "Better to sit out one or two games than to never properly function again."
For more information on concussion testing, visit sportsconcussiontesting.com or call Frontzak at (630) 878-1517.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.