Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

March 23, 2014

LINDLEY: Young athletes face alarming risk of head injuries

(Continued)

• Female high school soccer athletes suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than males. Women basketball players sustain 240 percent more concussions than their male counterparts;

• Emergency department visits for concussions sustained during organized team sports activities doubled among 8 to 13 year olds between 1997 and 2007.

Part of these trends could be explained by the growing popularity of travel team sports — basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, lacrosse and soccer — across the country.

For many kids, participation in a tournament schedule of high-level play continues throughout the year, thereby increasing the likelihood of injuries.

In its report, the Committee on Sports-Related Concussions called for an examination of “what’s known and what’s not” about young people and their sports. It called on organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations to coordinate study of sports and produce a list of recommendations.

The committee favors:

• Establishing a national surveillance system to determine the rate of sports-related concussions among youth, and include data on protective equipment, causes and extent of injuries;

• Supporting research to improve concussion diagnosis and create age-specific guidelines for managing concussions;

• Conducting studies on effects of concussions and repetitive head injuries over a lifespan;

• Undertaking a scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of age-appropriate techniques, rules and playing and practice standards in reducing sports-related concussions; and

• Funding research on age- and sex-related risk factors for concussions.

No doubt, research of this magnitude will take a long time to conduct and analyze. There’s also the possibility the results could be troubling, especially to traditionalists who think injuries are just part of the game.

Then again, this research might help someone like Olympic gold medalist Briana Scurry, a goalie on the U.S. soccer team, avert head injuries like the one she suffered during a match two years ago. It left her with severe headaches, disrupted sleep, anxiety and depression.

It’s fine to encourage boys and girls to compete. It seems only fair that they also understand the risks that are involved in those activities.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

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