ABCNews.com—September 13, 2010
In research released Monday: the number of young people suffering from head injuries while playing basketball is on the rise.
Researchers looked at emergency room visits for children ages five to nineteen and found that traumatic brain injuries associated with playing basketball, predominantly in the form of concussion, had spiked 70 percent between 1997 and 2007. Despite a 20 percent decline in overall basketball emergency-room visits, head injuries still showed a significant increase, researchers found.
Are Teen Sports Today too Aggressive?
Teen head trauma in high school sports has received a good deal of media attention over the past few years, and a number of studies have highlighted this issue, says Dr. Marci Goolsby, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Most recently, a study released last week found that ER visits for concussions occurring in youth team sports have risen sharply since the late 1990s. Sport-related concussions accounted for half of all concussions seen in teens, researchers found, and team sports, such as basketball, accounted for more than a third of those sports concussions.
This spike, like that seen in Monday's study, may have more to do with this increased awareness than with an actual increase in total head injuries, Goolsby says.
"Basketball has become more of an aggressive sport, but not necessarily more dangerous. In general the public is becoming more aware of traumatic brain injuries and there's an interest in getting them evaluated sooner," she says. More urgent evaluation, as opposed to checking out a head trauma with your family doctor, might account for the rise in concussion-related ER visits for youths.
Goolsby, who played basketball in high school and college and now treats patients at her hospital's Women's Sports Medicine Center, says that more often than not, young basketball players experience sprains, especially of the ankle, or injuries to their fingers, not brain trauma.
Red Flags for Parents, Coaches, Following Teen Head Injury
Not all head injuries are made equal, experts say, so it's important for parents, kids, and coaches to be able to recognize what's a concussion and what's just a bump on the head.
Often someone will experience amnesia and disorientation following a head trauma, but if this confusion gets progressively worse, Goolsby says, parents should seek an urgent medical evaluation for their child.
Vomiting, change in consciousness, and difficulty waking up would also be signs that a head injury should get checked out by a professional, she says.
Allowing proper rest and recovery time following a concussion is also key because insufficient recovery can leave kids more susceptible to another concussion and can prolong their symptoms, Goolsby warns.
"You need to minimize mental and physical activity while they're symptomatic and then once they've been completely symptom free for over 24 hours, you can begin a gradual progression back into activity," she says.
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