Playing the Game Correctly: Preventing and Treating Concussions

Marion County Commission on Youth

This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris

Recently there has been a spike in media coverage regarding the dangers of concussions, especially as they affect professional athletes. But do parents and coaches know how to prevent and treat concussions when they affect youth?

According to Indiana University’s Health Center, a concussions is “a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. A concussion can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions are rarely life-threatening, and can range from mild to severe. They can occur even if you do not lose consciousness. Multiple concussions can have cumulative and long lasting life changes.”

Dr. Terry Horner, a neurosurgeon with more than 31 years of experience treating concussions in people of all ages, has worked with the Indiana University football team and the Indianapolis Colts and has also presented information about concussions to recreational sports clubs and homeschool groups.

“Part of our challenge is to try to educate not only parents and children, but also doctors,” said Horner, explaining that heavy media coverage has led to increased awareness, new research and changes to treatment methods in the past few years.

Horner said that concussions can be difficult to identify, as they happen at a cellular level where imaging tests are not necessarily possible.

“When we have a concussion, it gives us a lot of different symptoms…symptoms we can’t see,” said Horner. “If [the youth has] a sign, that’s something we can see.” Horner described some of the noticeable signs of concussions in the graphic below.

Once a concussion is diagnosed, rest is a key part of the healing process. Those who over-exert themselves after a concussion are more likely to sustain more serious injuries. If an athlete gets a second concussion before fully recovering from a previous concussion, he or she could suffer long-term consequences or die.

According to Horner, age can have a great effect on the impact of a concussion and the time required to heal from such an injury. Brains are not considered mature until the mid-twenties. While college-aged individuals may only need about two weeks to recover from a concussion, children in middle school may require up to 30 days to heal. Children in grade school need at least 30 days to fully recover.

Parents of athletes should be particularly aware of concussions. Luckily, there are laws in place to make sure parents and coaches have information regarding the dangers of concussions, as well as stipulations that require players who may have concussions be pulled from the game or practice for at least 24 hours.

Parents of children who are not athletes should also be aware of concussions, as they can occur in any person who takes a fall or hits his or her head during an activity. Even if parents aren’t sure if their child is suffering from a concussion, they should take him or her to the hospital.

“When in doubt, send ‘em out,” Horner said.

As a sports fan, Horner is thrilled to see excited youth having fun and learning life skills, particularly while being active. However, he offers one reminder to keep everyone safe: play by the rules.

“We want [young athletes] to play according to the rules,” said Horner. “We want them to play the game correctly, so we don’t get injuries.”

Parents and coaches interested in learning more about concussions can visit the Indiana Department of Education’s website to print off handouts, read up on concussion laws for our state and view information about coaching certifications.

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