Although most people think of them as brain surgeons, neurosurgeons are medical specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the entire nervous system. Of course, they operate on the brain, but they actually spend a large part of their time providing surgical and nonsurgical care for patients with back and neck problems. They also are leaders in diagnosing and treating head and neck injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and concussions.
As children return to school, millions of them also will be hitting the playing field or court as they participate in competitive athletics. Whether it’s football or cheerleading, soccer or volleyball, or even just recreational physical education or riding a bike to school, members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) want to stress the need for awareness about concussion and other sports-related head/neck injuries.
The possibility of a serious – even life-threatening – injury when participating in athletics means that players, coaches, administrators and parents should all know how to identify symptoms of a potentially serious condition, as well as take all preventative measures to ensure these sports are enjoyed safely by participants.
Sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children and adolescents, and more than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in high school contact sports.
The changes in competitive cheerleading – which over the past two decades has transformed into an increasing acrobatic sport – have lead to significant rule changes and requirements, which should be enforced at all times. Women’s soccer players also face significant risk of concussion and other serious head injuries. In fact, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, women’s soccer is second only to football when it comes to the number of concussions reported by young athletes.
As part of Neurosurgery Outreach Month this August, the AANS continues to remind all those involved in youth sports to make concussion awareness a part of your playbook.
Preventing sports-related head injuries
Buy and use helmets or protective head gear approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for specific sports 100 percent of the time. The ASTM has vigorous standards for testing helmets for many sports; helmets approved by the ASTM bear a sticker stating this. Helmets and head gear come in many sizes and styles for many sports and must properly fit to provide maximum protection against head injuries. In addition to other safety apparel or gear, helmets or head gear should be worn at all times for:
• Baseball and Softball (when batting)
• Horseback Riding
• Powered Recreational Vehicles
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS
• Supervise younger children at all times, and do not let them use sporting equipment or play
sports unsuitable for their age. Do not let them use playgrounds with hard surface grounds.
• Follow all rules and warning signs at water parks, swimming pools, and public beaches.
• Do not dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools. Check the depth and
check for debris in the water before diving.
• Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.
• Do not wear any clothing that can interfere with your vision.
• Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.
• Obey all traffic signals and be aware of drivers when cycling or skateboarding.
• Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling, skateboarding, or in-line skating.
• Perform regular safety checks of sports fields, playgrounds and equipment.
• Discard and replace sporting equipment or protective gear that is damaged.
• Never slide head-first when stealing a base.
Preventing Other Head Injuries
• Wear a seatbelt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
• Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or ride as a passenger with anybody
else who is under the influence.
• Keep firearms unloaded in a locked cabinet or safe, and store ammunition in a separate,
• Remove hazards in the home that may contribute to falls. Secure rugs and loose electrical
cords, put away toys, use safety gates, and install window guards. Install grab bars and
handrails if you are frail or elderly.
KING’S DAUGHTER MEDICAL SPECIALTIES
KDMS Neurology – Medical Plaza A, 617 23rd St., Suite 5, Ashland, KY – (606) 408-2820