Even for child athletes, concussions a real danger

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By MARY SHEDDEN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: August 21, 2011


It’s been two years, but Lynn La Roe vividly remembers that sound.

Her then-12-year-old daughter, Ariah, collided with another girl during a youth basketball league game in Brandon. From the stands, she heard the thud as her daughter’s head struck the court floor. Coaches and a nurse evaluated the girl, who never lost consciousness, and she begrudgingly sat on the bench for the remainder of the game.

As a precaution after the game, La Roe took Ariah to the emergency room, where she was quickly evaluated and sent home with one symptom: a headache. The next day, the young athlete felt better, and her mom let her return to practice.

La Roe’s initial reaction is typical of what millions of parents and coaches do in response to sports-related head injuries, said Chris Nowinski, president of Boston’s Sports Legacy Institute. Parents and players — from peewee levels to the pros — don’t know that failure to rest and recover from a concussion can have brain-damaging consequences.

“The evidence that concussions are far more serious is growing. … We have to protect student athletes by educating coaches, educating parents and educating administrators,” said Nowinski, who created the institute after suffering multiple concussions as a WWE wrestler.


But the school gym’s bleachers were peppered with only a smattering of coaches and health professionals, including La Roe, whose daughter is an active multisport athlete. She said she won’t react in the same way the next time her daughter is in a collision.

“Oh, if somebody doesn’t make her sit out, then I’m going to be one of those parents who probably runs down there and says, ‘Please take her out, at least for this game,’ ” the Valrico mom said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 1.6 million and 3.8 million children and adults a year suffer sports- or recreation-related concussions, a blow to the head with no clearly defined or visible symptoms. And 90 percent of the concussions that result in a trip to a hospital involve children, nationwide emergency room data show.

Most media attention about concussions has focused on the high-profile problems of many former National Football League players, including last week’s class-action lawsuit filed by seven former players in Philadelphia. The lawsuit alleges that the league failed to protect players with head injuries, some of whom now live with memory-related disorders.

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