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Getting kids to talk is best medicine for concussions

Parents know concussions are serious business. Most young athletes do, too, but that might be part of the problem in treating them.

The Institute of Medicine is out with a new report on concussions and how they affect kids and young adults from ages 5 to 21.

Dr. Frederick Rivara, with the University of Washington Medical Center, was part of the committee. He says most players and coaches know what to look out for, especially here in Washington.

“Washington had the first law, called the Lystedt law, that requires coaches to have concussion education. It requires that parents and athletes sign a statement confirming they know the symptoms of concussion and it requires that the coach take the child out of play,” says Rivara.

If an athlete reports nausea, headache or dizziness after a hit, they have to sit-out. Dr. Rivara says that might be why many young players don’t want to say anything.

The IOM report found that concussions seem to be more prevalent in female athletes, but they suspect that’s just because boys are less likely to report a possible concussion.

Rivara says it’s important for coaches and parents to get through to these hard-heads.

“This is your brain and your brain is important. It’s more important than this particular game,” says Rivera. “If you continue to play when you’re having symptoms, you’re more likely to have a longer course before you can return to adequate play.”

The committee also looked at things like helmets and mouth guards. Unfortunately, Rivara says even if it’s advertised as reducing the risk of concussion, there is no hard evidence to back that up.

Helmets do protect against other injuries, like skull fractures, but there’s no equipment that can guarantee lowering the risk of concussion.

The best thing to do is to get treatment right away and make sure the doctor has the knowledge they need to create a personalized course of action for your child.

“Your child may be different from another child,” says Rivara. “Their age, their gender, how many previous concussions they’ve had, all affect how they should be treated.”

So, ask your family doctor if they’re up to date on the concussion research. If they’re not, ask if they can recommend someone who specializes in sports medicine.

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