Concussions usually occur to adult athletes, because they have larger bodies, move at higher speeds, and experience more violent collisions. Although concussions among younger athletes do not happen as often, they can be a lot more dangerous, because children’s brains are still developing.
The number of children aged 8 to 13 visiting emergency rooms for treatment of sports-related concussions doubled between 1997 and 2007. According to Mark Halstead, an assistant professor in the orthopedics and pediatrics divisions in Washington University, the dramatic increase is a result of greater awareness of the dangers of concussions.
A decade ago, children who experienced a low-grade concussion might be permitted to return to action in as little as 15 minutes after their concussions subsided. Now, Halstead and his team recommend that young athletes should not be allowed to compete on the same day after suffering a concussion. In some cases, athletes are required to rest for weeks or months before they return to the playing field. Some states make it mandatory for young athletes to get approval from a qualified physician before participating in competitive sports again. Concussions are graded as 1, 2, or 3, and the duration of rehabilitation is dependent on the grade.
It is dangerous for children to return to competition too soon, because they will expose themselves to the risk of “second impact syndrome”, a condition that affects younger athletes only. This syndrome occurs when children start playing sports again too soon and sustain another head injury, and it can lead to serious swelling in the brain, and even death. As such, parents have to make sure that their children follow the advice of their physicians.
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