concussion: the must-see movie for moms
While the movie Concussion focuses on how a lifetime of hard hits to the head destroyed the brains of professional football players, moms of football-loving kids need to know that damage done to the brain can start the day a child puts on a pee-wee helmet.
why it matters to moms
Roughly a quarter million kids play pee-wee football every year. That means starting at age 6 or 7, their rapidly developing brains are put at risk. “The developing brain is highly susceptible to damage,” says Robert Lober, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon at Dayton Children’s. “Young children may have worse outcomes from brain injuries than adults and older adolescents. A single blow in early childhood may result in problems that last a lifetime.”
In the movie Concussion, Dr. Bennet Omalu names the brain disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The brains he studied came from men who had phenomenal football careers, but then spiraled into emotional and financial ruin. CTE is the result of continual concussions and it is progressive – the longer you live, the worse it gets. Those with CTE suffer from confusion, memory loss, depression, aggression, suicidal thoughts and dementia.
safety on youth sidelines
“While high schools, colleges and pro teams have athletic trainers on the sidelines, most pee-wee or youth programs don’t,” says Lora Scott, MD, co-medical director of Dayton Children’s sports medicine program. “That’s why Dayton Children’s offers tools and resources to help educate moms on how to keep their kids safe on and off the field.”
“Dayton Children’s launched the Healthy Roster app this fall,” says Dr. Scott. “It allows parents and coaches who don't have access to an athletic trainer on the sidelines to call one and live video chat. That way a qualified professional can access the child.”
“We are also very concerned about their life off the field, as well as on it. We offer free baseline concussion testing. This measures the function of a child’s brain before any sort of head injury. If a child does suffer a concussion, we know what their personal “normal” is and can work to return them to it. Since concussions can cause emotional and behavioral changes, that management includes not only a return to sports, but school and social life, too.”
culture shouldn’t trump safety
Football is an institution in America - but parents should not have to trade their child’s safety to be a part of that culture. “Parents need to insist that their child’s team is taught proper techniques and skills to evade and absorb tackles,” says Dr. Scott. “A helmet can only take you so far. Spear-tackling, or using the helmet as a weapon by tackling head first, is linked to catastrophic, life-changing head and neck injuries. It was banned from football in the 1970’s, but is still done frequently. As a parent, it is important to watch tackling techniques and make sure the coaches and children are not promoting this dangerous practice.”
“Many people ask me, would I let my son play football?” says Dr. Scott. “I believe it is generally safe and has a positive impact on physical, social and academic health. But like all sports, it is not without risks. As a mom, if my son wants to play football, I will make sure that he learns the right way to play, and take advantage of all the tools offered to keep him safe.”
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