Minimizing the Risk of Concussions in Sports

The Huffington Post--Parents—September 14, 2012

Teena Shetty, MD, Neurologist to the New York Giants and New York Mets and Attending Neurologist, Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City

Public concern has been growing about the long-term effects of concussions for athletes, professional and otherwise. While the risks in professional sports are considerably different from those of contact sports in school, they beg the question: How can a parent of a young athlete best minimize the risk of concussions in contact sports?

The question is especially important because children under the age of 18 are more vulnerable to concussions, and the accumulation of concussions is something to be avoided. As a neurologist who treats professional athletes as well as youth at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, I encourage parents of children who play contact sports to take the following steps:

First, educate your child about concussions and their symptoms. A concussion is an alteration in mental status induced by trauma, which may or may not involve loss of consciousness.

Second, teach your child the importance of self-reporting. It's essential for athletes to understand the symptoms, because they are largely subjective.

Third, stop play when symptoms occur and see a specialist. The best response to symptoms of a concussion is to stop play and see a neurologist.

Fourth, be conservative about returning to play. Return-to-play guidelines must necessarily err on the side of caution, given the underlying ambiguity of these conditions.

Fortunately, the brain can heal with rest and caution from a mild concussion. When fully healed, the brain is also less susceptible to future concussions than it would otherwise be.

The potential impact of repeated trauma is something that should be the focus of further consideration. Some schools are now requiring baseline neuropsychological testing for students playing contact sports, so that the impact of any head trauma can be better evaluated. This should increasingly be the case for students 12 years old and older.

Read the full story at huffingtonpost.com.

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