Is It Worth It? Concussions in Youth Sport

By: Brandon Z

Anyone who has ever played or watched a sport has inevitably seen some sort of injury. Through my personal experience, I have suffered many minor and major injuries. I have had and seen anything from pulled muscles to broken bones, and even bad concussions. These injuries always occurred to me as just part of the game. This is until I watched the movie “Head Games” directed by Steve James.  “Head Games” talked about repeated impacts to the head through youth football.  The question brought to light by this film is whose responsibility is it to keep these youth safe?

A concussion is derived from the latin word “concutere” or “to shake violently”. This is exactly what a concussion – is a shaking of the brain and impact of the brain against the skull that lowers brain function of the injured person. Concussions have immediate short term effects, although every athlete reacts differently, most athletes have headaches, see sparkles or lights, confusion, vomiting, amnesia, and even depression. The problem with concussions is when the symptoms have all gone the brain is not 100% healed. Untrained coaches and team therapists are often unaware of the procedures that should be used when a youth athlete sustains a concussion. This lack of knowledge is putting youth at an extreme risk for long term brain damage which can result in unexpected death.

Speed and aggression in youth sports is exponentially increasing as equipment becomes lighter and training programs become more present in earlier age. Contact sports are becoming more dangerous for youth every day. There is zero chance that contact sports will become non-existent because of the love for sports in our country and all over the world. One thing that needs to change immediately is the mentality in the locker room and on the field in sports. A concussion is an injury that no one can see. A concussion is not a broken arm that you receive a cast or have to get surgery. A concussion is only felt or seen by the person who has received it. Because of this, team mates and coaches often encourage players to “get back out there” or “man-up”. The mentality is to play through the pain and make sacrifices for the players around you. The mentality of youth sports teams needs to change. These children are dying at a younger age, often have a shrunken hippocampus (the part of the brain that is responsible for memory), and lose brain cells while there brain is still in development.

Is an elementary school football championship really worth permanent brain damage, higher risks of suicide, or difficult time learning for the rest of the youth’s life?

Other readings/viewings:

Head Games by Steve James

Roy, B. A. Fitness focus. Concussion in youth sports. ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal , 17(5), 3.

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About Charlene Shannon-McCallum

I passionately teach, research, blog, and tweet about leisure, recreation, and sport. My focus is on youth development, gender issues in leisure and sport, family, leisure education, leisure and health, and bullying in recreation and sport settings.
This entry was posted in Positive Youth Development. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Is It Worth It? Concussions in Youth Sport

  1. u95jq says:

    Great article! I completely agree with you. I think that what really needs to change is how the information about different injuries especially concussions is put out to the athletes. All athletes should be aware of the dangers of the game and the symptoms of concussions. There are multiple ways of doing this, handing out pamphlets, having the coach talk to the athletes, having parents inform their children, or having teachers talk about it in class. All coaches especially those within contact sports should be aware of symptoms even though most are not visible to the eye and coaches should be trained in basic first aid to. Coaches can act as a supporting and caring adult, someone that children can trust and confide in; in this aspect coaches should be listening to their athletes when they say they received a hard hit or aren’t feeling well instead of telling them to rub some dirt on it and making them go back on the field.
    Emily M.

  2. Great Blog! I read this article that the Western University football team put these sensors in their helmets to measure blows to the head. These electronic devices can calculate the force of the hit, location, and even how frequent you get hit there.

    This is huge, because this will help educate and make people more aware about concussions and even may find ways to prevent it. A lot of major football schools are trying out these monitors and they hope that even youth teams may hope to try it out and help spread awareness of the seriousness of head injuries.

    I myself have had a couple concussions which forced me to quit playing hockey. I was too stubborn and would come back to the sport too quickly before I was fully healed. I hope that with technology advancing, I hope that it can help lower the chance of concussions in sport.

    Adam

  3. a74tu says:

    Nice post, I enjoyed the topic and how it pertained to youth development. The way in which society expects athletes to brush off injury is a concern for lots of reasons. As youth develop they need the brain to be safe and allow for it to function properly, I think you did a good job on pointing out the specifics of this scenario. One thing I thought of in this topic you presented was how the genders differ in the way they handle injury. With boys in contact sports there is an ideology in how we expect them to play, with emphasis on violence and aggression but to also play through the pain. There are lots of stories about these athletes who suffer later in life from concussions and I do not think that it is something we should so easily disregard, especially in youth.

    Scott A.

  4. philippejpd says:

    Great read Brandon, it is really interesting how much those findings are true. So many youth coaches of minor boys contact sports, whether it is football to hockey, they expect you to put your body on the line for the team and to give it all you have for the team and you will be happy with your performance at the end of the game, but what if giving your all really does hurt you as bad as causing life long problems to your head. Does it make it okay for the coach to encourage that? I do not see many parents saying yes I don’t mind putting that mentality in my child’s mind. With that said, what have we really done to change the way we provide encouragement to play harder to the youth.
    As Adam commented, I also saw the reading about putting a impact censor on all athletic helmet of all sport that involve hitting and a chance of any head injury. This allows the coaching staff that is watching the game on the sideline to track the amount of impacted hits you have taken to the head. And knowing the results you may yourself take the child out before he gets to the point where he may suffer great damage. This has not yet been adapted, possibly because of the cost of such design, but then again, ask the parents how much they are willing to pay to ensure their child’s safety while they are out playing the sport then love to play.

    Philippe

  5. s30c5 says:

    Injuries are something that I find most parents and leaders do not take as serious when it comes to youth. While working with children in a summer day camp I had a 7 year old girl run into another 7 year old boy while playing tag. I saw it happened and was sure I would have to screaming children in my arms because they hit so hard. However, they both said they were fine and got back up. About an hour later the girl came to me saying she thought she was going to be sick and felt dizzy. Immediately I knew she had a concussion and should have checked them both out a little more. Although the boy was fine where the girl got hit caused her to have a concussion. At this time I was only 18 myself and did not have much education about concussions or what to look for. I think it is important for leaders and coaches to have the proper training and tools to asses if the youth has a concussion.

    • s30c5 says:

      Knowing early if someone has a concussion will help to prevent further damage then what is done. Like Brandon mentioned contact sports will always be around but it is about educating everyone about the dangers of them. Sports will be aggressive and violent at points and sometimes not intentionally but in the dressing room it should be made aware that going for the head is not acceptable at all. Now being a trainer for a University Basketball team I use a program called SCAT2 to asses the athletes at the beginning of the season to see if they are cleared to start playing or not. It is also helpful in using when an athlete does get a concussion as it has all the proper assessment questions and I can compare their scores to see how severe it is.

      This is a great post Brandon, injuries such as this need to be taken more serious as sports are changing and becoming faster and require a lot of skill. Not all youth or sports teams are equally good as each other and I think that leagues and coaches need to be aware of the skill level of athletes and teams when considering what level they are going to play as well. From a friends experience with her team going to a higher rugby level, this caused many concussions on the team and injuries as the players were not as skilled or strong to compete against other teams causing them to get hurt. Therefore, we need to make sure our youth are safe by educating them and leaders/coaches the impact concussions could negatively have on their youth development.

      Caleigh R.

  6. jbuote says:

    Very interesting and important topic when involved in contact sports.
    I can very much relate to this as an athlete who has played hockey all of my life. In particular to my first season out of minor hockey when I made the transition to College hockey. My very first season in this league I experienced three different concussions in the span of an seven month season. These were all bad cases of hits to the head, and the opposing players were kicked out each and everytime that this happened. The reason I received so many concussions and hits to the head is because I was one of the smallest and shortest players on the team which did not work in my defense what so ever. After the third hit to the head I was actually made to sit out for a full month of the season to let any injuries associated with my head heal and make a full recovery. I ended up getting back just in time for the play offs to begin.
    This is a very important topic that I don’t feel is addressed enough in the sports world. This can be very dangerous and sometimes lead to long-term effects or damages to the brain. I feel that they should view this topic and make athletes more aware of just how dangerous these concussions can be.
    Great post!
    -Jamie B

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