Heading Off Big Problems

by Melissa Brunner

You all know I like to run. Many of you also know how I injured a muscle this past spring and had to take a couple weeks off. It was frustrating, it was maddening and it made me want to run more! So I understand why a young athlete might not want to let something like a little bump on the head keep him or her out of the game.

Trouble is, it may not be a little bump on the head at all. Or, that little bump on the head coupled with another little bump and another might add up to one huge problem.

If you missed our To Your Health report on concussions this week, I'm posting it below. Medical professionals are learning more and more about the effects of concussions. It used to be, you worried when someone was knocked unconscious. Even then, once they woke up and shook it off, they were back at it. Now, doctors know the brain may actually be bleeding, bruised, and if you don't take the week or two it needs to heal, you make the problem worse. As I was doing this story, parents and friends shared stories of children or other people they knew who had headaches that wouldn't go away, parts of games wiped from their memories and even one young person who had to relearn walking and talking, all because of repetitive, concussive injuries. And, of course, most of us heard about the Spring Hill football player who collapsed and never woke up.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association implemented new guidelines this year for how schools should respond to concussions. They also posted resources for parents, athletes and coaches. I urge you to check them out at http://www.kshsaa.org/Public/General/ConcussionGuidelines.cfm. However, even the best guidelines can't protect an athlete from himself or herself. Young people need to be honest with their parents, their coaches and themselves. It is hard to take yourself out of the game. You don't want to be seen as weak, you don't want to let your team down. The problem is the price you pay could be your life.

A parent posted a comment that she and her husband made the difficult decision to make their child sit out a season of sports because of repeated head injuries. She says he is mad, but she'd rather he be mad than dead. Do you think you could do the same? And is there more that should be done to protect young athletes?



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