Preventing & Treating Head Injuries In Student Athletes

Young athletes experience sports injuries, especially head injuries, at an alarming rate. Most of these go unreported and untreated, which can lead to serious medical complications down the line. Student-athletes are enthusiastic, reckless, and they tend to dismiss any pain to remain on the field. That’s why parents, teachers, and coaches need to be vigilant. Ignoring the problem can lead to long-term cognitive and developmental issues.

Understanding Student Athletes

It is important to understand students and their responses to injuries before coming up with solutions for this problem. Here’s a look at what you need to know:

  • Early adolescents between the ages of 11 to 14 don’t understand the short term and long term consequences of head injuries. They’re less likely to report it or follow the treatment advice. Doctors need to question them directly to get a straight answer from the child.
  • Children between the ages of 14 and 16 are more independent, but also more susceptible to peer pressure. They also have a sense of invulnerability, which means their judgment is compromised. They are most likely to continue playing against medical advice. Student-athletes in this age group value social status and the opinion of their peers more than their health. Doctors need to approach them carefully to ensure they don’t go against medical advice.
  • Student-athletes, in their late adolescence, are more reasonable. They around 17 to 19 years old and have a better understanding of the limitations of their bodies. They’re more likely to report and less likely to ignore doctor’s advice.

Adults need to alter their treatment approach according to the child’s level of development. The goal isn’t to discourage the athlete from sports or forcing them to rebel.

Preventive Measures

Prevention is the best cure. Taking preventive measures before and during the game can help athletes avoid injuries and maintain peak performance. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Make sure students have good-quality sports appropriate protective gear. Helmets and mouth guards are the most critical components of the gear. Make sure they fit correctly because loose helmets do more harm than good.
  • Students need proper training and should know how to avoid injuries. They shouldn’t take unnecessary risks and learn the right techniques to play the game.
  • Awareness can also help students avoid injury, and schools should educate children about concussions and other head injuries. They should explain the short term and long term consequences.
  • Schools should also have a testing system in place to help diagnose head injuries. Tests like Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing or ImPACT can help identify students who have been injured.
  • Teachers and coaches can also encourage peer reporting. Teammates can report to coaches if they see that their team member is injured.

These preventive measures can help students avoid most injuries. Unfortunately, injuries can happen even if we take all possible precautions.

Treating Head Injuries

The most common and effective treatment for a concussion is physical and mental rest. The patient shouldn’t engage in any intense physical activity like playing a game, running, or even walking long distances. Physical exertion will trigger symptoms like dizziness, nausea, headaches, and blurred vision.

The patient also needs to avoid mental exertion for a set period. This means they can’t watch TV, read books, play video games, or engage in activity that requires cognitive focus.

Students will start to recover gradually as their brain heals. They can engage in mild physical and mental activities as long as those activities don’t trigger the symptoms. Athletes should only get back on the field once they have recovered completely.

Dr. Grossfeld has over 25 years of experience in orthopedic medicine and is a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine. To get more information about concussions and other sports related injuries, contact Dr. Stacie Grossfeld today by calling 502-212-2663 to make an appointment.