Physicians Say Not All Va. Schools Manage Concussion Risks
With school back in session many sports teams are well underway, which means children could be at a higher risk of concussions. Physicians say they see a lot of concussions in the fall - it's football season and that's one of the highest risk sports for concussions, as well as soccer and lacrosse. They warn not every school in the state is regulating students risk as much as they could.
A concussion is a brief injury to the brain that occurs when the head hits an object. "So essentially all the chemicals and all the things that are going on in the brain get disrupted and there's a miss-match between the brain's demand for energy and the body's ability to deliver the energy after a concussion," said Donna Broshek, the associate director of the Brain Injury and Sports Concussion Institute at the UVA School of Medicine.
Broshek said since there is no way to see if a person has a concussion, even with a MRI, parents need to pay attention to the symptoms. If your child is playing a sport and they have any impact to the body or head, and then they look dazed, confused, and can't quite figure out where they are. Or if they have dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, it's a sign your child may have had a concussion. They should immediately be removed from play and evaluated by a healthcare professional and not resume playing their sport until they've been cleared by a doctor.
"But the most important thing, because concussions do happen, is just to identify them right away and get that child out of the activity so they're not exposed to further forces if they do have a concussion," said Broshek.
Since it's hard to prevent concussions in sports, Broshek said the best thing to do is try to change the rules. That's what's been done in football over the years - certain kinds of tackling and moves have been banned.
In July of 2011, a law was passed in Virginia that mandated concussion education and management in all public schools. "It's a great law and it's keeping children safe," Broshek said.
Although the law only applies to public schools, Broshek said some schools like St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville have voluntarily created concussion management programs as well. However, that's not the case with many schools in the commonwealth. Many of them have no plan in place for concussions in school sports. Broshek advises parents who have children in private schools to ask the principal what's being done to keep their kids safe when playing sports.
In addition, LearningRx Charlottesville is offering anyone with proof of enrollment in an organized local sport a discounted cognitive skills assessment for $99. The usual rate is $249.
"Parents need to understand that getting the baseline measurement is critical before their child participates in the sport, so that if the child is concussed, they have something with which to compare the post-concussion assessment to determine the true impact of the trauma on the child's cognitive functioning," said Dargan Coggeshall, the director of LearningRX in an emailed statement. "Don't be one of those parents that says, ‘If only we'd gotten a clinical mark before the hit."'
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